Texas ‘Right-To-Die’ Drama

Life, death, mother, fetus and the state of Texas.

Erick Muñoz's wife, Marlise, is said to be brain dead. The Fort Worth, Tx. hospital where Marlise is under observation will not permit her family to remove the pregnant woman from life support until her child is born. (AP)

Erick Muñoz’s wife, Marlise, is said to be brain dead. The Fort Worth, Tx. hospital where Marlise is under observation will not permit her family to remove the pregnant woman from life support until her child is born. (AP)

The story of Marlise Muñoz lying brain dead and pregnant in Texas, kept alive by machines for a damaged fetus, sounds ghoulish enough for Edgar Allen Poe.  Her body decomposing in a hospital bed.  The life within deeply damaged.  Her family begging she be let go.  The hospital citing Texas law and saying no for long weeks.  On Friday, a Texas judge said enough.  No more life support.  The remains of Marlise Muñoz have been released to her family.  But the story of what happened in that hospital in Texas is still stirring controversy.  This hour On Point:  a woman and a fetus, life and death, and the law in Texas.

– Tom Ashbrook


Diane Jennings, reporter for The Dallas Morning News. (@djennings)

Tom MayoAltshuler University Distinguished Teaching Professor and associate professor of law at Southern Methodist University. (@tangowhiskymike)

Joe Pojman, executive director, Texas Alliance For Life (@joepojman)

Andrea Grimes, senior political reporter at RH Reality Check. (@andreagrimes)

Emily Bazelon, senior editor at Slate. Contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine. Fellow for creative writing and law at Yale Law School. (@emilybazelon)

From Tom’s Reading List

Dallas Morning News: Fight to take pregnant Tarrant woman off life support goes to judge Friday — “In court documents, Erick Muñoz said that doctors told him his wife was brain-dead and that he asked that she not be kept on life support. Both husband and wife had worked as paramedics and knew of each other’s end-of-life wishes, court filings say. Marlise Muñoz’s parents agreed with their son-in-law’s request. But officials at John Peter Smith refused to turn off life-support equipment, citing Texas law prohibiting removal if a patient is pregnant.”

ABC News: Why Texas Fetus Might Have Had ‘Abnormalities’ Before Mother Was Brain Dead — “The family of Marlise Munoz, a 33-year-old paramedic who was 14 weeks pregnant when a suspected pulmonary embolism left her brain dead two months ago, is suing John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth because doctors there told the family a Texas law forbade it from withdrawing life support until the fetus’s birth or a miscarriage occurs. The fetus has hydrocephalus, or water on the brain, a possible heart condition, and ‘lower extremities that deformed to the extent that the gender cannot be determined,’ lawyers representing Munoz’s husband announced Wednesday evening.”

Slate: Brain-Dead Marlise Munoz’s Fetus Is ‘Distinctly Abnormal.’ Please, Texas, Let This Nightmare End — “How can the state supersede the wishes of Erick in this scenario? The answer is that it can’t. Hospitals cannot provide ‘life-sustaining treatment’ to a person who is dead, and that’s what brain dead means: death. This is not the same as being in a vegetative state, where you can breathe without a respirator. In all 50 states, brain dead means you are legally dead.”

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