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US: Brain-dead pregnant woman removed from life-support

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Brain-dead-pregnant-womanA brain-dead woman kept alive by a US hospital because she was pregnant has been taken off life support after a court ruled that the hospital was at odds with the law in insisting that it had to keep her alive to protect the life of the baby.

Marlise Munoz, 33, who was about 22 weeks pregnant, had been on life support at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth since November 26 after falling unconscious. It is believed that she had a blood clot. Her husband, Erick Munoz, had sought to remove her from life support, saying the foetus she had been forced to carry was withering inside her lifeless body.

But Texas law that says life-sustaining treatment cannot be withdrawn or withheld from a pregnant patient, despite a “do not resuscitate” request from the patient or a request from the family, and the hospital thus declined to remove life support. A judge on Friday sided with the family in finding that Marlise was already legally dead and ordering the hospital to remove her ventilator, setting a Monday deadline.

Heather King, a lawyer for the Munoz family, said in a statement on Sunday that life support had been removed and Marlise’s body released to her husband. In seeking to have Munoz disconnected from life support, lawyers for the family had argued that she was clinically dead, could no longer be considered a pregnant women and that the foetus she was carrying was severely damaged.

Attorneys for Munoz have said the parents of Marlise agreed with her husband’s request to turn off the ventilator. The lawyers also provided medical records they said show that the foetus suffered from oxygen deprivation and appears to have deformed lower extremities. JPS Health Network, which runs the hospital, said it could not confirm that it had withdrawn life support, citing privacy policy.

The hospital had said earlier that it would remove “life-sustaining” treatment, but did not say when it would act. Lawyers for the hospital had argued they were complying with a law that was intended to protect unborn children. “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,” the hospital’s statement said.

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