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Pregnant woman deemed brain-dead: Judge orders Marlise Munoz off life support

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After nearly two months of legal wrangling with the hospital providing basic life support for Marlise Munoz, a Texas judge ordered that the brain-dead pregnant woman be taken off of the machines that were keeping her alive. Munoz, who was admitted to the John Peter North Hospital on Nov. 28, has not experienced a waking moment since being admitted to the facility.

The Associated Press reported (via Yahoo News) Jan. 25 that Marlise Munoz, who was found unconscious on the floor of her Fort Worth, Texas, home, had also been 14 weeks pregnant when she was discovered. A debate has raged ever since her admittance on whether or not Munoz should remain on life support. Erick Munoz, her husband, and the Munoz family have been trying to get the hospital to remove the 33-year-old woman from life support almost from the start. However, the hospital invoked state law with regard to Munoz' pregnancy and refused.

John Peter North Hospital admitted in court that Munoz had been brain dead when admitted to their care. They also admitted that the pregnant woman's fetus

But State District Judge R.H. Wallace found Friday that the hospital had misapplied state law and ordered the facility to pull the plug on its life support machines by 5 p.m. Monday, Jan. 27.

Both Munozes were paramedics. And as Erick Munoz argued on behalf of his wife, it was never her wish to be attached to life support machines if she was ever deemed brain dead. Adding weight to the Munoz family's case, though, was the fact that the unborn child, the foundation for the hospital's decision to keep Marlise Munoz on life support, was non-viable. Attorneys for the family presented evidence earlier in the week that the fetus was "distinctly abnormal," where its extremities are deformed, a state of hydrocephalus exists, and heart problems, the latter two conditions most likely due to oxygen deprivation.

"Quite sadly," the attorneys said, "this information is not surprising due to the fact that the fetus, after being deprived of oxygen for an indeterminate length of time, is gestating within a dead and deteriorating body, as a horrified family looks on in absolute anguish, distress and sadness."

Although the hospital made no comment throughout Saturday, the decision was made to comply early with the judge's order. According to NPR, life support was turned off for Marlise Munoz at 11:30 a.m. Sunday morning.

"The past eight weeks have been difficult for the Munoz family, the caregivers and the entire Tarrant County community, which found itself involved in a sad situation," a hospital statement said. "JPS Health Network has followed what we believed were the demands of a state statute."

Still, the debate on whether or not Marlise Munoz should have been disconnected from life support will continue, much as it has done in other like situations, most notably the 2001 case of Terry Schiavo. As noted by CNN, during the fight, supporters for the hospital gathered, waving signs that read "God stands for life" and "Praying for Baby Munoz and family." On the opposite side, backers of the Munoz family waved placards that read "Let Marlise rest in peace" and "Respect Marlise's wishes."

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