KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Saga Ends: Texas Woman Disconnected From Ventilator

News outlets covered the final outcome of a court order. 

CNN: Brain-Dead Texas Woman Taken Off Ventilator
A wrenching court fight -- about who is alive, who is dead and how the presence of a fetus changes the equation -- came to an end Sunday when a brain-dead, pregnant Texas woman was taken off a ventilator. The devices that had kept Marlise Munoz's heart and lungs working for two months were switched off about 11:30 a.m. Sunday, her family's attorneys announced (Hellermann, Morris and Smith, 1/26).

USA Today: Brain-Dead Pregnant Woman Take Off Life Support
Her husband found her unconscious on Nov. 26, possibly because of a blood clot. He has said she told him that if she ever was in her present condition, she did not want to be kept alive. The hospital and the family agreed that Marlise Muñoz met the criteria to be considered brain-dead -- meaning she was dead under Texas law -- and that the fetus could not be born alive at the current stage of pregnancy, but the hospital had said that it had a legal duty to protect the fetus (Petrecca and DiBlasio, 1/26).

The Associated Press/ABC News: Family: Brain-Dead Texas Woman off Life Support
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 garnered attention on both sides of the abortion debate, with anti-abortion groups arguing Munoz's fetus deserves a chance to be born. Erick Munoz and his wife both worked as paramedics and were familiar with end-of-life issues. He insisted both were clear that they did not want to be kept alive by machines in this type of situation (Merchant, 1/26).

The New York Times: Texas Hospital Takes Pregnant Woman Off Life Support 
The announcement came just hours after the hospital that had fought the move said that it would follow a judge’s order to remove the woman, Marlise Muñoz, from a ventilator and other machines, appearing to end a legal fight that had sparked a national debate over abortion, end-of-life care and a Texas law that barred medical officials from cutting off life support from a pregnant woman. ... “The Muñoz and Machado families will now proceed with the somber task of laying Marlise Muñoz’s body to rest, and grieving over the great loss that has been suffered,” Mr. Muñoz’s lawyers, Heather L. King and Jessica Hall Janicek, said (Fernandez, 1/26).


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