A federal judge ordered Friday night that Marlise Muñoz, the Texas woman who has been kept on life support against her and her family’s will, be removed from her ventilator and respirator.
Muñoz has been legally dead since she collapsed on her kitchen floor in November, but the state has kept her on a ventilator because she was pregnant. Lawyers for the John Peter Smith Hospital, where Muñoz is being kept, cited an obscure state law that stipulates that hospitals are required not to remove “life-sustaining treatment” from pregnant women to argue that such life support was necessary.
However, lawyers both for Muñoz’s family and for John Peter Smith Hospital acknowledged Friday that the fetus was “non-viable.” Earlier, attorneys simply had indicated that the fetus suffered “abnormalities,” but did not say whether it could viably live outside of the womb.
Muñoz’s case has sparked a conversation about the bodily autonomy of pregnant women when it comes to end-of-life wishes. Texas is one of 12 states that invalidates a woman’s wishes if she is pregnant.
District Judge R.H. Wallace on Friday night sided with Muñoz’s family, and ordered that the woman be taken off life support by 5:00 pm central time Monday.
The hospital has until Monday to remove Muñoz from life support.
John Peter Smith Hospital said Sunday that it would not fight the judge’s order. “The past eight weeks have been difficult for the Munoz family, the caregivers and the entire Tarrant County community, which found itself involved in a sad situation,” the hospital said in a statement. “JPS Health Network has followed what we believed were the demands of a state statute. From the onset, JPS has said its role was not to make nor contest law but to follow it. On Friday, a state district judge ordered the removal of life-sustaining treatment from Marlise Munoz. The hospital will follow the court order.”