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Pregnant, Brain-Dead Woman Forced to Stay on Life Support to Incubate Fetus

Texas law requires that a pregnant woman be kept alive, regardless of the condition of the baby or her family’s wishes.

A brain-dead woman is being kept on life support against hers and her family’s wishes so her body can incubate her unborn baby, Huffington Post reported.

33-year-old Marlise Munoz from Fort Worth, Texas was 14 weeks pregnant when she died of a suspected pulmonary embolism, a blood clot to the lungs, the week after Thanksgiving.

Her husband, Erick, found Marlise at their home and performed CPR before she was taken to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth.  Electric shocks and drugs started her heart and it continued to beat with mechanical support, but her brain waves were completely flat, with no hope of ever recovering.

As her family planned to say their goodbyes to honor Marlise’s wishes not be kept on life support, they were stunned when a doctor told them the hospital would not comply with the directions, NY Times reported.

The hospital plans on keeping Marlise on life support until her baby is delivered based on an arbitrary law of the Texas Advance Directives Act which states that, “a person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient.”

Hospital spokesperson J.R. Labbe said he believed the hospital's hands are tied: "We can't withdraw treatment from a pregnant person as the law states,” he told Dallas Culture Map.

This is despite the fact that family members including her husband have publicly stated they do not wish to keep her on life support and have expressed concerned about the condition of the baby.

“That poor foetus had the same lack of oxygen, the same electric shocks, the same chemicals that got her heart going again. For all we know, it’s in the same condition that Marlise is in,” father Ernest Machado, told Dallas News.

Texas is known for having the strictest laws on abortion and prohibitions relating to the standards for cutting off life support to pregnant patients.

The case has sparked an ugly public debate between anti-abortion activists in the state with some accusing the family of “wanting to pull the plug” and get his of his wife and baby.

“This isn’t about pro-life or pro-choice,” Machado said. “We want to say goodbye. We want to let them rest.”

Jodie Gummow is a senior fellow and staff writer at AlterNet.


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