Family Of Brain Dead Pregnant Woman Is Suing Texas Hospital, Politicians Weigh In

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The family of a brain dead woman who remains on life support against their wishes is suing the Fort Worth hospital that contends they are simply following state law by keeping her alive because she is pregnant. According to NBCDFW, “Experts familiar with the Texas law say the hospital is incorrectly applying the statute because Munoz would be considered legally and medically dead.” The tragic story which broke nationally over the Christmas holiday, has now sparked a conversation among state leaders in Texas.

An incident in mid-December caused the woman to suffer what is believed to be a pulmonary embolism while she was 14 weeks pregnant, about 10 weeks before the fetus is considered viable. Women in Texas may have an abortion up to 20 weeks at their own discretion. After that point there is an exception for the life of a mother, but even before 20 weeks there apparently is not an exception for the death of the mother. Specifically, the Texas Health and Safety Code Section 166.049 states that, “a person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this sub-chapter from a pregnant patient.” The family argues that because she is “legally dead” the statute should not apply.

See what state candidates for High office including Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott have to say about the issue…

In this case, the woman who was a paramedic, had previously told her family that she did not want to remain on artificial life support but even though the family is forced to make her remaining decisions for her, this is one the state has taken from them. In the suit the family claims the hospital's decision is, “in complete conflict with other portions of the statute, makes no sense, and amounts to nothing more than the cruel and obscene mutilation of a deceased body against the expressed will of the deceased and her family.”

The Texas Tribune had a great run down of statements from legislators and candidates on the matter that should otherwise be a private family decision. Greg Abbott current Attorney General continued his theme of dodging tough questions and the Tribune called him on it.

Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running for the Republican nod for governor, declined to give his opinion on the case, offering an explanation he has repeated often when asked to weigh in on contentious issues.  

“Considering the fact that this very issue is about to be in litigation, I don't think it would be appropriate for me to interfere with a comment,” he said in a statement, “so I'll simply reiterate my condolences to Mr. Muñoz and his family.”

It is not hard to know what Texas Right to Life would think about this issue since they clearly state unequivocally that they are, “resolute in rejecting abortion as a permissible option in any circumstance.” They have endorsed Greg Abbott and surely would be disappointed with his deflection and missed opportunity to stand up for the unborn. Right to Life has received a “False” ruling from Politifact for past for statements made against Wendy Davis in which they claimed she, “opposes any limits on abortion.” The Politifact story includes Davis' support of the Roe V. Wade decision and a statement from her campaign indicating she, “opposes late-term abortions except when the life or health of the mother is endangered, in cases of rape or incest or in the case of severe and irreversible fetal abnormalities.”

The problem for Right to Life who also refers to Davis as an “abortion extremist” is that support for any exception is a violation of their creed and so Abbott and others do not want to risk losing their support. That support based on a mischaracterization of Davis' position is so important, GOP candidates have yet to formally disavow crude references to her as “Abortion Barbie” by a GOP official in Denton County.

Davis told the Tribune, “This private decision should be made by Mrs. Muñoz's family, in consultation with her doctors,” calling it, “an incredibly tragic situation and an intensely private matter for the family.”

Real leaders may not say what you want to hear, but they don't dodge tough questions when the state has inserted itself into a tragic and time sensitive private matter.

The issue comes down to two main points. One, the woman is legally dead and therefore it is up to her family to make final decisions for her including whether to terminate her pregnancy before the point of viability. And secondly, because the state is mandating the child be brought to term, the family must have the resources they need to care for the child who could have sustained lifelong or developmental issues from being deprived oxygen. The family has already express concerns about the latter.

You can read the document the family filed in a Tarrant County District Court here.

You can follow me on Twitter at @joethepleb.


About Author

Joe Deshotel

Joe was born and raised in Beaumont, Tx, but live music and politics brought him to Austin. He has worked in and around government and elections for over a decade including for a member of US Congress, the Texas Legislature, the Mayor of Austin. He currently serves as Communications Director for the Travis County Democratic Party. He is most interested in transportation, energy and technology issues. He also likes Texas Hold'em and commuting on his electric skateboard. Follow me on Twitter at @joethepleb.

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