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Hospital Takes Brain-Dead, Pregnant Woman Off Life Support

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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM/AP) - A strenuous battle between a distressed husband and Fort Worth’s John Peter Smith hospital came to an end Sunday morning. Marlise Munoz, a pregnant, brain-dead woman who had been kept alive against her husband’s and family’s wishes, was taken off life-support at 11:30 a.m.

Closure in the national news-making issue comes after Judge R. H. Wallace Jr. ordered on Friday, Jan. 24, to take Munoz off life support.

“Mrs. Munoz is dead,” Wallace said in issuing his ruling, adding that meant the hospital was misapplying a state law that prohibits the removal of life-sustaining treatment from a pregnant patient.

Initially, the JPS was ordered to take her off life-support by 5 p.m. Monday, giving the hospital time to appeal the decision. However, today, the hospital complied with the ruling.

Erick Munoz’s attorneys released a statement Sunday afternoon on behalf of the Munoz family.

Marlise Munoz’s body is now in the care of immediate family, who are preparing to lay her to rest.

“May Marlise Munoz finally rest in peace, and her family find the strength to complete what has been an unbearably long and arduous journey,” the statement from attorneys Heather King and Jessica Janicek read.

JPS hospital released this statement on the issue that made national news:

“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.

JPS Health Network has followed what we believed were the demands of a state statute. From the onset, JPS has said its role was not to make nor contest law but to follow it.

On Friday, a state district judge ordered the removal of life-sustaining treatment from Marlise Munoz. The hospital will follow the court order.”

Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant when her husband found her unconscious on November 26, possibly due to a blood clot.

Erick Munoz was told by a doctor that she’s brain dead, but John Peter Smith Hospital refused to allow him to take her off of life-support. The hospital argued that Texas law prohibits it from following a family directive when a pregnancy is involved, although three experts said the hospital is misread the law in question.

The case has raised questions about end-of-life care and whether a pregnant woman who is considered legally and medically dead should be kept on life support for the sake of a fetus.

It also has gripped attention on both sides of the abortion debate, with anti-abortion groups arguing Munoz’s fetus deserves a chance to be born. Several anti-abortion advocates attended Friday’s hearing.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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