Erick Munoz, a paramedic in Tarrant County, Texas, is fighting doctors to have his wife taken off of life support because he claims he knows that she didn’t want to be kept alive by machines. Now here is the twist, Munoz’s wife, Marlise Munoz is pregnant.
According to ABC News, after Marlise lost her brother, she and Erick had a long talk about end-of-life decisions, “including the importance of do-not-resuscitate orders.” Munoz says that he knows his wife wouldn’t want to be kept alive by machines, but Texas state law puts the rights of a fetus over the wishes of its mother, according to The Denver Channel.
Marlise has been on life support at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth since November 26, according to reports, and even though the fetus is close to 18 weeks, Munoz has told reporters that the doctors don’t know what effects the “oxygen deprivation Marlise has suffered will have if the baby is delivered.”
Munoz said he found his wife collapsed on their living room floor in November from what doctors believe was a pulmonary embolism, and after calling 911, he performed CPR. Marlise never did regain consciousness, and Munoz says the woman in the hospital bed is now “simply a shell.”
“It’s hard to reach the point where you wish your wife’s body would stop,” Munoz, also in his 30s, told ABC News’ Dallas-Fort Worth affiliate WFAA-TV. “They don’t know how long the baby was without nutrients and oxygen,” he said. “But I’m aware what challenges I might face ahead.”
While there are worries about the fetus’s health due to this whole ordeal, doctors have said that the fetus’s heartbeat has remained normal. Munoz stated that even though he and Marlise had every intention of signing a do-not-resuscitate order, or DNR forms, they had not done so before she became ill.
Not only is Munoz claiming he wants to respect his wife’s wishes, but now there are fears that even if the fetus was kept alive and delivered after 24 weeks, there may be permanent brain damage.
Art L. Caplan, director of the medical ethics division at NYU’s Langone Medical Center, told ABC News:
“As much as we might want to save the fetus, if both parents agreed that they didn’t want technology to keep [the fetus] alive and thought about it and discussed it, then to me Texas law could be overridden by a judge who says there is a right to stop life support.”
Cases such as these can be very controversial, given that there are no signed legal documents to prove what Munoz is saying. So who has the right to make the decision? The family, the husband, or the court of law?
[Image via Shutterstock/Zurijeta]