FORT WORTH, TX - A judge on Friday ordered a Texas hospital to remove life support for a pregnant, brain-dead woman whose family had argued that she would not want to be kept in that condition.
Judge R.H. Wallace Jr. on Friday heard arguments from attorneys for both the family of Marlise Munoz and John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth.
On Friday afternoon, he ruled in favor of the family and ordered John Peter Smith Hospital to declare Munoz dead and to take her off life support.
The hospital has until 5 p.m. Monday to comply with the judge's order.
Erick Munoz, of Haltom City, said his wife Marlise, a fellow paramedic, clearly stated to him before he found her unconscious on Nov. 26: If she ever fell into this condition, she was not to be kept alive.
Erick, with tears in his eyes, made no statement to the media when he left the courtroom Friday.
In refusing to take Marlise Munoz off life support, the hospital had cited a provision of the Texas Advance Directives Act that reads: "A person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient."
Several experts interviewed by The Associated Press have said the hospital is misapplying the law.
The case has raised questions about end-of-life care and whether a pregnant woman who is considered legally and medically dead should be kept on life support for the sake of a fetus. It also has gripped the attention of groups on both sides of the abortion debate, with anti-abortion groups arguing Munoz's fetus deserves a chance to be born.
Munoz is carrying a fetus, now believed to be at about 22 weeks' gestation, that is "distinctly abnormal," attorneys for the woman's husband said in a statement Wednesday.
Heather King and Jessica Hall Janicek, the family's attorneys, based their statement on medical records they received from the hospital.
"Even at this early stage, the lower extremities are deformed to the extent that the gender cannot be determined," King and Janicek said, also noting the fetus has fluid building up inside the skull and possibly has a heart problem.
Spokeswomen for the hospital and the Tarrant County District Attorney's office, which is representing the hospital in the lawsuit, declined to comment Wednesday.
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