CREDIT: AP Photo/The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Ron T. Ennis
The lawyers representing Marlise Machado Muñoz’s family members, who are suing the hospital that’s currently keeping the pregnant woman on life support against their will, have confirmed that Muñoz is deceased. The Texas hospital that refuses to remove Muñoz’s body from life support has avoided disclosing specific details about her status, simply maintaining that she is in “serious condition.”
“We have recently received Marlise Muñoz’s medical records, and can now confirm that Mrs. Muñoz is clinically brain dead, and therefore deceased under Texas law,” attorneys Jessica Janicek and Heather King told CNN.
That backs up what Muñoz’s husband has been saying for weeks. Erick Muñoz decided to sue the hospital over their interpretation of an obscure Texas law that overrides women’s end-of-life wishes if they are pregnant. The hospital claims they can’t remove Marlise Muñoz from a ventilator because it’s illegal to “withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment… from a pregnant patient.” But her family says the law doesn’t apply in her case because Muñoz is already dead.
“Marlise Muñoz is legally dead, and to further conduct surgical procedures on a deceased body is nothing short of outrageous,” her husband writes in his motion seeking an emergency injunction against the hospital. Along with Muñoz’s parents, he wants to give her a proper burial and help bring some sense of closure to her death, which occurred around Thanksgiving.
Unlike brain-damaged individuals who are living in what’s called a “persistent vegetative state,” people who are declared brain dead are simply deceased. There’s no function in their brain stem, and they can no longer breathe on their own. Although their heart may remain beating, giving the illusion of life, it is inaccurate to suggest that a ventilator is actually keeping them alive. In fact, most medical professionals believe it’s highly unethical to attempt this type of medical intervention with a deceased person’s body.
Muñoz’s pregnancy is now a little over 20 weeks along, and the hospital has provided no information about it. They may be able to monitor the fetal heartbeat at this point, but until another few weeks pass, it will be difficult to determine whether any serious fetal abnormalities resulted from Muñoz’s sustained lack of oxygen nearly two months ago. The Dallas News reports that although it is extremely rare for a healthy baby to be delivered after being carried in the womb of an otherwise dead woman, it has happened at least once. Last year, a Hungarian hospital sustained a pregnant brain dead woman for an additional three months after she was declared to be deceased, and the baby was delivered successfully.
The hospital has not indicated who will be responsible for paying for the ongoing medical costs related to Marlise Muñoz’s body.