Judge will hold hearing Friday in suit to take pregnant woman off of life support

 

By Dave Andrusko

It was a tiny 134-word-long story in today’s Star-Telegram. It said simply that Texas state District Judge R.H. Wallace has scheduled a hearing for this Friday in the standoff between the family of Marlise Muñoz, who is approximately 22 weeks pregnant, and John Peter Smith Hospital.

The family says it has seen hospital records that say Mrs. Muñoz is brain-dead. They argue that therefore she is not a “patient” and should be disconnected from the life support she has been on since November 26.

The hospital, citing a provision of the Texas Advance Directives Act that reads “A person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient,” says it cannot.

Mrs. Muñoz entered her 22nd week of pregnancy January 20.

The case took an unexpected turn last week after the family of Mrs. Muñoz brought the lawsuit in Tarrant County civil court against JPS Health Network. They requested the court to issue an order requiring John Peter Smith Hospital “to immediately cease conducting any further medical procedures and to remove Marlise from any respirators, ventilators or other ‘life support,’” the Star-Telegram newspaper reported.

However two days later, without explanation, State District Judge Melody Wilkinson, the judge hearing the suit, recused herself from the case.

Mrs. Muñoz, 33, the mother of 15-month-old Mateo, was 14 weeks pregnant when she collapsed on her kitchen floor in November. Munoz tried to resuscitate his wife and called for an ambulance. Doctors restarted Mrs. Muñoz’s heart in the emergency room.

Her mother, Mrs. Lynne Machado, told the New York Times that “the doctors had told her that they would make a decision about what to do with the fetus as it reached 22 to 24 weeks, and that they had discussed whether her daughter could carry the baby to full term to allow for a cesarean-section delivery.”

Doctors are monitoring the baby’s condition.

For reasons not explained in news accounts, Erick Muñoz says he believes his wife was without oxygen for some time before he found her early the morning of November 26.

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