UPDATE: Judge orders life support removed from pregnant woman.

pregnant woman has stroke and kept on life support to save baby
Erick, Mateo and Marlise Munoz

UPDATE 26/01/14

Marlise’s family removed her life support on Sunday.

Mamamia previously reported:

A court has ordered that Marlise be removed from life support, after her husband argued that their unborn child was withering in her degenerating body.

The judgment read that the hospital has been “ordered to pronounce Mrs Munoz dead and remove the ventilator and all other ‘life-sustaining’ treatment from the body of Marlise Munoz”.


Imagine you arrive home to find your partner unconscious. You preform CPR and call an ambulance.  Upon admission to the hospital it becomes clear that your partner’s condition is the result of a pulmonary embolism; more commonly referred to as a blood clot in the lungs.

Despite the best efforts of the medical staff, it is clear your partner will never regain consciousness.  Your partner is 14 weeks pregnant, making your heartbreaking choice about life support all the more difficult.

Ultimately, you decide to suspend treatment, which is your right as the next of kin.

But then the Government tells you you’re no longer entitled to decide what’s best for your wife and unborn child.

They step in and make the decision for you. And they decide to keep your wife alive until the baby is born.

Erick Munoz, found himself in this very situation when his wife Marlise suffered a suspected blood clot. Marlise is currently on life support in a Texas hospital.

The couple worked in emergency services and as a result had encountered loss of life on a regular basis.  Previously Erick and Marlise had detailed discussions about what they would like to happen if either of them were in this situation.

These discussions informed Erick’s decision to turn of his wife’s life support. He knew that she would not have wanted her body to be kept alive by machines, when all hope of her recovery was lost.

But the law in the state of Texas requires life saving treatment be administered to a foetus – even if it is against the conscious parent’s wishes.  The law states in relation to pregnant patients that a facility:


… may not withdraw life-sustaining treatment… from a pregnant patient.”

This law trumps the wishes of Marlise and her family, her mother claims:

We know our daughter wouldn’t want this. … My husband and I had numerous talks with her.

We were all floored when we found out about the law.

woman suffers stroke and is kept on life support to save baby

This means that Marlise will be kept on life support until such time that the baby can be safely delivered.

She will be a lifeless human incubator for her unborn child.

Those campaigning for the rights of the unborn child, claim the family’s wishes can be honoured once the baby is born.

The hospital says it has no choice but to uphold the law.

Erick Munoz is concerned that it is difficult to tell how long his unborn child went without oxygen. So there is no way of knowing how the baby may have been effected by his wife’s condition.

This has in part informed Erick’s decision to discontinue treatment.

Having had the difficult, yet necessary discussions with his wife, Erick is making a decision that his wife would agree with. And I think he has every right to make that call.

I don’t know what I would do in this situation and I am not seeking to take a side in the debate about whether or not Erick is making the right decision. I am making the point that it is Erick’s decision. It is not up to government to decide for us, what we should do if we are ever to be in this position.

It is my view, that in situations such as this, in a first world country, in circumstances where the wishes of the patient are well known to the family, the decision about treatment should be made by the family.

The law ought to make the decision easier for the family in horrible circumstances like this; not further frustrate an already devastating situation.

Have you discussed with your partner what you would like to happen in this circumstance? Please share to encourage your friends and family to discuss this very important issue.

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