The last time that Erick Munoz saw his pregnant wife conscious, she had gotten up before 2a.m. to give their son a bottle.
When Marlise didn’t return to bed and with the boy still crying, Erick went in search for her. He found her unresponsive, on the kitchen floor, her face blue, from the lack of oxygen. A short time later, the doctors at the Fort Worth hospital declared her brain-dead.
Munoz had been clear about her wishes, never to be hooked up to life support if she were fatally injured. But when the unthinkable happened to the 33-year-old mom, doctors told the family, that they could NOT respect her wishes. Because she was fourteen weeks pregnant, and they’d have to follow a Texas statute that made it illegal, to unplug a pregnant woman.
“The doctor told us that even if a pregnant woman has a DNR, or a living will, the law will supersede that,” Munoz’s mom, L. Machado told NBC News. So any pregnant woman MUST be kept alive, because of her fetus. We had never heard of this, and we wanted to get the information out there, because NO families should have to go through this, it’s pure hell.”
Although the doctors have been sympathetic to the family’s plight, they feel that they have no other choice.
“We follow the state law on this”, J.R. Labbe, VP of communications and community affairs for JPS Health Network. “We cannot withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment for a pregnant patient”.
Nobody knows exactly what happened to Munoz before she was found and rushed to the hospital on Nov. 26, but the doctors suspected that blood clot traveled to her lungs, and blocked her oxygen.
When Machado and her husband arrived at the emergency room, they found doctors and nurses, hovering over their daughter, assessing her condition.
“They did a CAT scan and EEG and there was NO brain activity,” Machado said, “She was clinically declared brain dead. The doctors said she’d been without oxygen for well over an hour.”
And, the doctors did NOT disconnect her, because she was pregnant, and, they did it, because the laws of TX stated that you MUST save the baby, and, maybe, from a humanistic angle, they did what was right, but, the members of the family is the one with the wrenching pains in their hearts, watching their daughter and wife got needles all over her body, hooked up to an oxygen machine.