Brain-dead pregnant Marlise Munoz removed from life support, body released to husband

A prolife activist hospital in Texas has finally given up its battle to keep a dead woman on life support, disobeying the wishes of her husban and parents, so that she could give birth to her deformed baby.  Marlise Munoz was removed from life support today, and her body was finally released to her husband.

Some background from my previous story on the Munoz tragedy:

Erick Munoz found his wife Marlise unconscious in their home on November 26, 2013. She was immediately put on life support, where she remains to this day.  At the time, Marlise was 14 weeks pregnant.

Erick and Marlise Munoz, and their son, via Facebook.

Erick and Marlise Munoz, and their son, via Facebook.

The woman is brain dead, and her husband’s lawyers say that under Texas law, Marlise is legally dead.  They also say that Marlise made clear to her husband, prior to falling ill, that she would not want to have life support continued in this type of situation. The husband and her parents want the hospital to remove life support.

The hospital, on the other hand, says that they are required to continue treatment to a “pregnant patient” under a different provision of Texas law.

A judge ruled on Friday that the hospital must remove Mrs. Munoz from all life support.  We also learned last week that the fetus Mrs. Munoz was carrying was “distinctly abnormal.”

The 22-week-old fetus’s lower extremities are deformed and it is impossible to determine its gender, the attorneys for the woman’s husband, Erick Muñoz, said in an emailed statement.

“The fetus suffers from hydrocephalus [water on the brain]. It also appears that there are further abnormalities, including a possible heart problem, that cannot be specifically determined due to the immobile nature of Mrs. Muñoz’s deceased body,” the statement said.

The fetus, which was deprived of oxygen for “an indeterminate length of time, is gestating within a dead and deteriorating body as the horrified family looks on,” the attorneys said.

The hospital had until 5pm tomorrow (Monday) to comply with his ruling, thus giving them time to appeal it.  To its credit, the hospital finally stopped playing God with other people’s families.

I’ll be curious to see if the hospital has the nerve to try to charge Mr. Munoz for the time they kept his wife’s lifeless body on life support against his wishes.  As she’s been dead for two months, it’s an interesting question as to her insurance, if she has any, would continue to pay.


(I’m told that in order to better see my Facebook posts in your feed, you need to “follow” me.)


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • http://www.gistguru.com Olaoluwa W Oluwasegun

    Some legal terms holding people from resting in peace. Live and let live.
    http://www.gistguru.com

  • Hue-Man

    Good news, if you can get past the widower and the motherless child, ending to story. “Robyn Benson, the Victoria woman who was declared brain-dead in December, underwent surgery on Saturday to deliver a healthy baby boy before she died the next day.” http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/robyn-benson-on-life-support-gives-birth-to-baby-iver-and-dies-1.2531549

  • Hue-Man

    I’ll set out my confusion
    1. I have a medical directive that provides for “no heroic efforts”.
    2. I would like to have access to assisted suicide.
    3. Most families don’t have end-of-life discussions until it’s too late, i.e. Dad’s already on a ventilator.
    4. “The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that doctors cannot unilaterally
    choose to end life support services for Hassan Rasouli, an Ontario man
    who has been comatose since 2010.” http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/10/18/supreme-court-upholds-right-to-demand-life-support-against-advice-doctors-cant-end-aid-without-consent/
    5. “The Supreme Court of Canada says it will hear an appeal by the B.C.
    Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) that could grant terminally ill
    Canadians the right to assisted suicide.” http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/assisted-suicide-appeal-to-be-heard-by-supreme-court-1.2498892
    6. I have a philosophical problem with keeping someone on a ventilator and a feeding tube where there is no hope for recovery (what level of recovery is up for discussion). To me the Terri Schiavo treatment was barbaric – even with current technology, a brain-dead patient could be kept “alive” for decades waiting for multiple organ failure before the machines were turned off.

    So the question is, if I’m against the application of medical technology in a hopeless case, does the delivery of a healthy fetus trump my unease? If Terri Schiavo’s parents had won, should the State have had any right to end her torture? Taxpayer’s monetary interest enters the equation in the U.S. for seniors but in Canada for all patients – Mr. Rasouli’s care, described in the linked NP article, consisted of an ICU bed, a scarce resource in any hospital, 100% paid for by Ontario taxpayers. (Mr. Rassouli was to have been moved to another health care facility last month, where the family would have to pay $1,707/month towards his care, which they say they can’t afford.) http://www.thestar.com/life/health_wellness/2013/12/31/hassan_rasouli_to_move_out_of_sunnybrook_after_long_endoflife_court_battle.html

  • http://MyLifeTumbled.tumblr.com/ Joey Tranchina

    Yes. That is what moved me to respond.
    I pictured a little kid with his fingers in his ears.

  • http://MyLifeTumbled.tumblr.com/ Joey Tranchina

    No but, to be demographically accurate,
    the Latino/Latina population is almost there.

  • http://MyLifeTumbled.tumblr.com/ Joey Tranchina

    Is there any update on the billing
    Is the hospital attempting to collect from their victims?

  • djtejas

    You are welcome…

    I still find it odd that 3 people gave me a thumbs down just for presenting information about the situation.
    People are strange…

  • http://MyLifeTumbled.tumblr.com/ Joey Tranchina

    California is very beautiful and semi-functional, but both Arizona and New Mexico are also incredibly beautiful places. Don’t worry about this current batch of lunatics in Phoenix… they’re old.

  • http://MyLifeTumbled.tumblr.com/ Joey Tranchina

    I think a Republic of Texas would be nice.

    Especially if Texas took Oklahoma, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina and North Florida with them. I would be easier to live with a Crackpot, Christian Libertarian failed state next door than having to make laws with these fools in Washington.

  • http://MyLifeTumbled.tumblr.com/ Joey Tranchina

    Thank you for reporting facts of this case that I did not know.

    That sounds like a case of risk-averse medicine practiced
    for the benefit of malpractice insurance. Bad medicine.

  • http://MyLifeTumbled.tumblr.com/ Joey Tranchina

    May your pathetic, bigoted, non-existent god
    kiss my a$$ and bark at the hole.

    Evil done in the name of god is evil.

  • http://MyLifeTumbled.tumblr.com/ Joey Tranchina

    I don’t see any hypocrisy. The facts of the two situations are vastly different.

    To me the entire Pro-choice movement is not about what is done
    but rather a debate over “Who decides?”

    In both these cases those who had the right to make the decision
    where legally allowed to in the end, only one was forced through
    a horrible interlude by people who had essentially no rights.

  • http://MyLifeTumbled.tumblr.com/ Joey Tranchina

    Did these vicious anti choice fanatics grow up putting cats in the oven and pulling the wings off of flies?

  • Hue-Man

    John, here’s a National Post story from today about a pregnant woman who is brain-dead but in this case, her husband wants to keep her “alive” so that the fetus can develop. Major difference – she was 22 weeks pregnant when she suffered a brain hemorrhage on December 28, 2013. http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/02/03/the-heartbreaking-tale-of-a-pregnant-brain-dead-b-c-woman-and-her-husband-hoping-for-their-sons-healthy-arrival/

    My initial reaction is to say “It’s the husband’s decision in accordance with what he understands were his wife’s wishes and in the best interests of the fetus.” Am I being a hypocrite after my strong stand against the hospital in the Munoz case? BTW, I would expect that BC Medical Plan would pay for 100% of the costs of care through delivery.

  • Donna Davenport

    “Sometimes dead is better.”- Stephen King, Pet Sematary

  • cleos_mom

    What? They didn’t want the poor woman’s body stuffed and put on display at the next March For Life?

  • Craig Howell

    Didn’t I read that four Republican candidates for TX Lieutenant Governor have endorsed some kind of legislation that would effectively force all hospitals in the state to do what this dreadful place just did?

  • stancando

    From NT times article of 1/25/14…………”Mr Munoz, who had been sitting on a bench behind his lawyers,…..began weeping…..said…that it had been painful to watch his wife deteriorate from the woman he knew to what he described as a corpse being kept alive against his wishes. Over these past 2 months, nothing about my wife indicates she is alive……When I bend down to kiss her forehead, her usual scent is gone, replaced instead with what I can only describe as the smell of death. As a paramedic, I am familiar with this smell, and I now recognize it when I kiss my wife. In addition, Marlise’s hands no longer naturally grip mine for an embrace. Her limbs have become so stiff and rigid due to her deteriorating condition that now, when I move her hands, her bones crack, and her legs are nothing more than dead weights.”

    EVERY LAWMAKER AND ALL THOSE DRACULEAN PEOPLE WHO FAVOR THIS LAW, SHOULD BE REQUIRED TO READ THE ABOVE, EVERY DAY FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES. YOU PEOPLE REALLY DON’T KNOW WHAT LIFE IS.

  • Silver_Witch

    Like the doctors that went along with the police when they declared a man could be xrayed, force to take enemas and be colonscoped without his consent.

    You mean that kind of “well …yeah, but it was a legal decision”. Any of those doctors could have stepped forward and said NO – we are not keeping a corpse on life-support and have it decompose…or the nurses could have refused to provide “medical care” for a corpse….or heck they culd have not supported the “legal” action of the lawyers.

  • JMc

    Horrified…absolutely HORRIFIED by this article & most of the comments as well. May God have mercy on all of you.

  • djtejas

    No, I’d just like to see the people that changed Texas over the last 30 years to go away and let it return to the way it was when it wasn’t so far right wing.

  • djtejas

    Seriously, how do two people give thumbs down for me posting the facts of the situation?

  • djtejas

    Well, yeah…it was a legal decision so they followed that. A doctor did not make that legal decision though.

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  • HelenRainier

    Is that what it was? I thought the problem came because while she was technically brain dead the hospital did not declare her brain dead due to her pregnancy.

  • Silver_Witch

    Some doctor somewhere went along with it…..I can assure you of that.

  • djtejas

    They misinterpreted the term “patient”…once she was brain dead, she was no longer a patient and the law did not apply.

  • djtejas

    I can assure you it was not doctors at the hospital decision…it would be the legal department trying to make sure they did not break the law.
    They interpreted the law incorrectly…

  • djtejas

    While I don’t agree with the law either, the state did not force this. The hospital interpreted the law incorrectly because their legal department wanted to make sure they did not break the law.
    The law does not apply to women that are brain dead…one of the doctors responsible for writing the bill that became law even said so a long time ago.
    The hospital played ti safe so they would not break the law…

  • Glenn I

    What? Even though the Republicans are in charge they didn’t rush a vote in the House for a bill requiring the maintenance of artificial life support? I thought they were uniformly crazier now than in the Schiavo days. At the very least the Republican-controlled state of Texas could have done something. God will hear about this!

  • jomicur

    They’ve moved from arguing that women are nothing but baby-making machines to arguing that even DEAD women are nothing but baby-making machines. If that isn’t the essence of ghoulishness, I don’t know what is. It’s like something out of a bad 40s horror movie.

  • HelenRainier

    Out of the four, Indigo, I would only want California.

  • HelenRainier

    The more I think about this entire fiasco the angrier it makes me. Let’s face it — if you were Mexico would you want Texas back?

  • sane37

    Start with whomever passed the laws that enabled these bastards.

  • Indigo

    Mexico might be wiling to take California, Arizona, and New Mexico back but Texas . . . ? It’s not really desirable any more and dumping it on a neighboring country is kinda rude. ;)

  • TheOriginalLiz

    That is exactly what the GOP and their fundie bedfellows want to reduce women to – walking incubators with the same rights and self-determination as any other property or equipment that exists only to serve men.

  • caphillprof

    I think many of us hope that the Texas legislature will simply go out of business and the state will revert to Mexico from whence it came.

  • caphillprof

    It’s past time that journalism starts naming names.

  • HelenRainier

    John, you say above the hospital was wrong about the Texas law — assume you mean their interpretation. What, specifically, was incorrect about their interpretation of the Texas law? Does the Texas state legislature need to rework the wording of the law then to prevent something like this tragedy from happening again? Thanks.

  • lilyannerose

    I’m hoping that the odor hanging over the State of Texas tonight is the smell of a lawsuit being filed. I can’t imagine the scope of the horror this family was put through.

  • Monophylos Fortikos

    Ugh. Good, if unpleasant, information to know.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    There is one additional detail: Who the attorney for the hospital is. From TPM:

    But that might be giving too much credit to the hospital, whose interpretation of the law has baffled some medical ethicists. And when looking at their decisions and statements, it’s worth noting that the hospital’s lead attorney has been described as an “anti-choice crusader.” In the 1980s the attorney, Neal Adams, advocated barring hospital employees from performing abortions at all; currently, he is on the board of an anti-choice organization.

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/cafe/what-s-the-matter-with-texas-anti-choice-law-at-its-worst

    If you want to know who obviously urged the hospital to do what they did, I think we need look no further.

  • Vwriter

    There needs to be an investigation as to who authorized each step along the way, and on what grounds. This case needs to be used to make sure this never, ever happens again. Horrific.

  • GreenEagle

    Should…should. But as someone pointed out above, this is a country where an innocent person can be forced by the police without a shred of evidence to undergo the most humiliating medical procedures, be found totally innocent, and then be billed by the hospital for the experience. So don’t count on what should happen actually occurring. My guess? The hospital will do everything possible to extort the millions of dollars in medical bills from this poor guy, they will sic teams of lawyers on him, and he will end up going bankrupt, and that will be that.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Oh I think they may argue what you’re saying. But again, in terms of hospital bills, we “thought” we were doing it because of a law doesn’t really cut it if you thought wrong. The family said we’re not paying for this any more, and the hospital went ahead and did it because the hospital thought the law said it should. Well, they were wrong. I’m just not convinced that legally the hospital has a leg to stand on in terms of the bills, unless they appeal. And hopefully they’re not that stupid to charge the husband, because they’re going to be in a world of hurt in terms øf the negative PR.

  • tamarz

    This was such a horrifying case and so emblematic of the anti-abortion crew’s view of what a woman is — literally (and I’m using that word correctly in this case) as a vessel for a fetus.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Devil’s Advocate: The hospital may have been (and ultimately was judged) to be wrong about Texas law, but let’s not forget the ever-ready excuse: “We were advised by our attorneys to comply with the broadest possible interpretation of the law, absent a specific judicial ruling ordering us to do otherwise in this specific case.”

    Legally speaking, there’s also a world of difference between “in essence” and actually admitting wrongdoing. I’ve been looking through both the ruling and every public statement I could find, and so far none of it would seem to indicate an admission of improper action on the part of the hospital. Agreeing to comply with the court order isn’t a tacit admission of guilt or malfeasance.

    The thing to watch for over the coming days/weeks will not only be whether the hospital publicly admits they were wrong and/or whether they or their attorneys say something along the lines of asserting this ruling was just about this one woman’s case, and that if any other pregnant woman — either brain-dead or in a persistent vegetative state — shows up, they’ll still opt to discard any DNR and medical PoA paperwork, as Texas law would seem to require.

  • AdmNaismith

    Militantly pro-life or not, any health-care giver in TX is damned to experience this sort of thing over and over so long as the ‘life-of-the-fetus’ is valued over real people, practical doctoring, common sense.
    Indeed, let Rick Perry and the Lege pay the bills.

  • loona_c

    I’ll say it again, send the bills directly to Rick Perry and the TX legislature.

  • PeteWa

    of course the hospital will send him the bill, it’s what vampires do, bleed you dry and take your money.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    There is simply no depravity or depths to which these pro-life ghouls will go.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Almost agree with you… Except legally the hospital was wrong about Texas law. And admitted it by removing her from life support and agreeing to the judge’s ruling. I doubt it’s any defense to claim compliance with a law that doesn’t apply. In essence, the hospital admittted to wrongly providing services the family not only didn’t ask for, but demanded not being given.

  • Hue-Man

    If this widower is stuck with millions in hospital bills, remember his name when states and cities complain about “federal mandates”. It’s the ultimate in state coercion – forcing a dead person’s estate to pay to keep circulating blood around her corpse. So much for personal liberty.

  • Silver_Witch

    And the women wept at the desecration of their sister. If there is a world beyond here – I wish here peace and I hope her husband can someday remember her the way she was when she lived and walked beside him.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    What’s likely to happen as far as the hospital bills go? Well, legal and just aren’t necessarily connected here, just like they weren’t when the medical center in New Mexico tried to charge a man for the illegal enemas, x-rays, and surgical colonoscopy they forced on him by police order.

    These are just my predictions/guesses, but I’d wager it’ll go as follows: The hospital will claim the charges are allowed because they felt they were required by Texas law to keep Mrs. Munoz on life support as long as there was a fetus inside her, viable or not. The insurance company, assuming there is one, will refuse payment, citing the declaration of brain death back in late November. I’ll also wager the hospital long since stopped seeking any kind of treatment pre-authorizations from the insurance company, as is often required by many people’s policies..

    That’ll leave Mr. Munoz on the hook for massive hospital bills he never authorized and with little hope of having enough money ever to pay.

    Meanwhile, the fetus worshippers and forced-pregnancy advocates won’t ever admit that Mrs. Munoz was actually brain dead or that the doctors really, truly did determine that the fetus was abnormal enough never to have survived to term anyway. Nor will any of them who advocated that no expense be spared in the life support of a brain-dead corpse ever have to worry about a penny of their own money being committed to the choices they’d deny others the right to make for themselves.

  • Silver_Witch

    I am glad I was proved wrong and that Mrs. Munoz was finally allowed to be treated with the respect and dignity any dead woman deserves.

    I still cry when I think about Mr. Munoz saying...” the smell of her perfume replaced by what he knows to be the smell of death”

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    The hospital acted against the wishes of the next of kin, and against medical sense. They should be forced to eat any and all costs associated with their blatantly political decision. Even if the Munoz’ insurance company is willing to pay for part of it, they shouldn’t be responsible for it and neither should the family. Mr. Munoz should never be contacted by the hospital, nor anyone associated with it, ever again, for any reason.

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