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TX Bill to Force Pregnant “Dead” Women to be Kept on Life Support

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life-supportBy Michal Ortner

There is a new bill being formed by Texas lawmakers that will attempt to protect the rights of unborn babies where the mother is declared brain dead. This new piece of legislation is a response to the ruling a judge made last year concerning a woman who was taken off of life support by her family. The Fort Worth woman’s unborn child was only at 23 weeks gestation.

In November of 2013, Erick Munoz, 26, discovered in the middle of the night that his wife, Marlise Munoz, 33, was unconscious. He found her collapsed body on the floor of their infant son’s room where she had gone to check on him at around 2 a.m.

The symptom that caused her collapse, doctors believe, was a blood clot in her lung. She was placed in John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth where she remained unresponsive for two months with no brain activity reported. Her unborn baby, only 14 weeks gestation at the time of the incident, maintained a measurable heartbeat and vital signs. This resulted in a disagreement between the Munoz’ family and hospital officials.
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The Munoz family, including the husband and parents of the patient, wanted to remove her from life support. They claimed that she would have not wanted to be kept alive by machines. The hospital contended that they could not legally remove Marlise Munoz from the ventilator because of the Texas Advance Directive Act. The Act states that “a person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment” from pregnant women.

This led to a lawsuit against John Peter Smith Hospital, filed by the Munoz family. Judge R. H. Wallace sided with the family, stating that she was legally deceased and that the Texas Advance Directive Act did not apply to the dead. The hospital claims that they never officially pronounced Marlise Munoz as deceased. Wallace ordered that the hospital identify her as dead and immediately remove her from life support.
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The hospital complied with the order and removed Munoz from her ventilator within two days of the verdict. Erick Munoz was able to learn the sex of his baby by request of one final sonogram. He named the child ‘Nicole’ after his wife’s middle name. Attorneys, however, claim that the baby’s gender was indeterminable due to deformities.
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Representative Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) is now putting effort into the bill, which will give rights to unborn children. The legislation will provide legal representation in court that would argue for the rights of the child.

“You’ll hear what the family wants, and you’ll also give the pre-born child a chance to have a voice in court at that same time,” Krause said. “The judge weighs everything and he or she makes their decision based on that.”