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Family of Brain-Dead Pregnant Woman Sues Hospital

marlise munoz, brain deadThe family of a North Texas brain-dead woman has filed a lawsuit against the hospital that has refused to take the patient off life-sustaining machines.

Marlise Munoz, was unconsciousness on the night of Nov. 26, when her husband, Erick, found her on the kitchen floor of their home. She was taken to John Peter Smith Hospital where doctors told Erick that Marlise, “was for all purposes brain dead.” She was 14 weeks pregnant with the couple’s second child.

It is believed that the cause of her collapse was likely due to a blood clot in her lung.

The couple were both trained paramedics, and the family claims that Marlise would not have wanted to remain on life-support machines.

However, Texas law has a provision against removing or stopping life-sustaining treatment for pregnant patients.

“We have recently received Marlise Munoz’s medical records, and can now confirm that Mrs. Munoz is clinically brain dead, and therefore deceased under Texas law,” Jessica Janicek and Heather King,¬†attorneys for the Munozes, said in an e-mail to CNN.

Mr. Munoz has filed an emergency motion as well as a complaint against John Peter Smith Hospital,¬† to have them disconnect the machines so her family can take his wife’s body and give her a burial.

No hearing has been scheduled, and the first judge that received the case, recused herself without explanation and it has been moved to state District Judge R.H. Wallace.

There is no clear consensus regarding the health of the fetus. The family says it could have been deprived of oxygen while Marlise had lost consciousness. It is currently estimated to be at 21 weeks gestation, the state law allows for the fetus to be removed from the body after it’s viable. There are few cases of babies born by C-section to mothers on ventilators but the prognosis of the infants is unknown.

Tom Mayo, a Southern Methodist University law professor who helped to write the applicable Texas law, says the hospital is misinterpreting it.

“She’s not a patient anymore,” he tells CNN. “And so I don’t see how we can use a provision of the law that talks about treating or not treating a patient in a case where we really don’t have a patient.”

“The provision they seem to be relying on is called the pregnancy exclusion. More than 30 states have this pregnancy exclusion in their law. … If they’re relying on that provision, I think Texas law in that respect does not compel the provision of life-sustaining treatment.”

S.C. Rhyne is a blogger and novelist in New York City. Follow the author on twitter @ReporterandGirl or on and visit her website at

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