After McMath Case, Battle Over Pregnant Woman Declared Brain Dead May Go To Court
OAKLAND (CBS SF) — While Jahi McMath’s family achieved its goal to move her to a long-term care facility, the case of a Texas hospital refusing to take a pregnant woman declared brain dead off a ventilator may soon be decided in court.
The family of Marlise Munoz is urging a hospital to remove the brain dead adult woman off the ventilator. However, John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth is refusing to do so because the woman was 14 weeks pregnant at the time of her admission, citing a Texas state law that prevents them from stopping “life-sustaining treatment” to pregnant patients.
On Nov. 26, husband Erick Munoz found Marlise unconscious on their living room floor, according to multiple reports. She may have experienced a dangerous blood clot called a pulmonary embolism.
She was declared brain dead by doctors shortly after arriving at John Peter Smith Hospital. Brain death means an irreversible loss of brain activity where the body cannot control any of its biological processes.
Munoz and his wife were both paramedics, and had discussed end-of-life medical decisions when it came to life support with their families. But, the Texas Health and Safety Code states “a person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient” so the hospital says it cannot legally turn off the ventilator.
“She did not want to be on life support,” her mom Lynne Machado told CBS News correspondent Manuel Bojorquez. “We knew what her wishes were as well as her husband’s, so we were all on the same page.”
The hospital would not comment specifically on the case, but said Monday it follows the law.
“JPS has a responsibility to be a good corporate citizen while providing compassionate, quality care for our patients,” hospital spokeswoman J.R. Labbe, said in an emailed statement. “In all cases, JPS will follow the law as it applies to healthcare in the state of Texas. Every day, we have patients and families who must make difficult decisions. Our position remains the same; we follow the law.”
The case is differs from the story of Jahi McMath, who was declared brain dead following a Dec. 9 tonsillectomy. In that case, doctors at Children’s Hospital Oakland wanted to remove life support because they were under no legal obligation to continue care following the brain death diagnosis. The family resisted through court challenges, and eventually reached an agreement with the hospital to discharge the girl so she could be transferred to a long-term care facility.
Neither McMath’s family nor their attorney have disclosed where the 13-year-old is staying.
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