Brain-dead pregnant woman ordered off life support by Texas judge

Chicago Tribune staff and Reuters wire reports

FORT WORTH, Texas— A Texas judge on Friday ordered a Fort Worth hospital to remove a brain-dead pregnant woman from life support, after her husband argued the fetus she has been forced to carry under state law is withering in her debilitated body.

The judge ruled that Marlise Munoz, now about 22 weeks pregnant, is dead. She has been on life support in a hospital since Nov. 26 after suffering what her husband, Erick, believes was a pulmonary embolism.

District Judge R.H. Wallace gave John Peter Smith Hospital until Monday Jan. 27 at 5 p.m. CST to remove the ventilator. "The defendants are ordered to pronounce Mrs. Munoz dead and remove the ventilator and all other 'life-sustaining' treatment from the body of Marlise Munoz," the judgment read.

Erick Munoz broke down in tears as the judge read the ruling. His lawyer Heather King and Marlise Munoz's mother and father were also crying and hugged Erick for several minutes after court has adjourned.

They did not speak to media, who packed the courtroom.

Lawyers for the hospital had argued they were complying with a law that was intended to protect unborn children.

"JPS Health Network appreciates the potential impact of the consequences of the order on all parties involved and will be consulting with the Tarrant County District Attorney's office," the hospital said in a statement.

Under Texas law, a person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment from a pregnant patient, even if there is a "do not resuscitate" request from the patient or if the family of the patient seeks to end life support.

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