January 9th, 2014
10:25 PM ET

Family of pregnant brain-dead woman to take legal action

33-year-old Marlise Munoz remains on a ventilator in a Texas hospital against her family's wishes, weeks after her doctors declared her brain-dead. The hospital says state law prevents them from removing Munoz from life support machines, because she is pregnant. Now her family is taking legal action. Anderson discussed this heartbreaking case with Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Criminal Defense Attorney Mark Geragos, and Former Federal Prosecutor Sunny Hostin.

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Filed under: Dr. Sanjay Gupta • Mark Geragos • Sunny Hostin
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Robin

    One thing that the story fails to mention is the condition of the fetus. The mother died of a pulmonary embolism in her lung. That means the fetus was oxygen deprived for some time, and likely suffered grave injury.

    The mother was only 20 weeks along when she died. Keeping her from sepsis and organ failure long enough to even deliver the baby as a minimal fetus will take extraordinary measures, and the baby will likely be terribly disabled in a way that most people who knew about it at twenty weeks gestation would often choose to terminate the pregnancy. This woman, who had expressed clear wishes about her own end of life and quality of life issues, might have made her desires about carrying a disabled child to term as well.

    January 11, 2014 at 3:31 pm |
  2. rachael

    I think the real question is why doesn't the father want his child? From the pictures i've seen of him and his wife, it appears that they already have one child together, so why is he so against having another?

    January 11, 2014 at 4:41 am |
  3. Mara

    If there is a possibility for that baby to be born, let it be born and who knows miracles happen every day she might wake as well. This was a wanted pregnancy and there is a BIG possibility that the baby can live, come on pro life people plus wouldn't the women's family want that as well? By the way I just loved the woman lawyer making this case, she rocked!

    January 10, 2014 at 10:51 pm |
  4. Margaret

    Removing her from the ventilator before the baby comes into the world would be tragedy upon tragedy. This child will be a source of consolation to the family in the future.

    January 10, 2014 at 8:58 pm |
  5. michelle

    I think the family is right that the woman did not want to live on life support, but like they said the pregnancy was planned and she was 14 weeks along before she collapsed, if she could talk she would tell you to let her go after her baby was given every chance at a healthy life, let her finish the pregnancy and deliver the baby before you pull support. What are you going to tell this child later in life when they find out you wanted to murder them because they were unfortunately still dependent on their mom when she collapsed. What family would want to lose a child this woman obviously loved just because she can't follow through with the pregnancy due to this unfortunate tragedy. If it was me in her place I would want my baby born before you let me go. Actually how can you look at it any other way, this is your child, from a woman you love, there will be no other, and it could be a girl just like her mom. To want to end life support and kill the baby is sad and selfish. And I am a mom who has lost three children so I know how hard it is to end life support, I had to make that decision once myself. Let her be until the baby is born, you own your child no less

    January 10, 2014 at 8:32 pm |
    • Rachel

      I agree that the woman should be kept on life support in order to continue the pregnancy until a point that is safe for the baby to be born. However, I have thoughts of why the family really wants her off of life support. Perhaps the issue that she's brain dead, didn't want to be on a ventilator, and the low chances that the baby wasn't harmed should all play a part. Also, who's paying for the life support? If the aforementioned reasons are enough for them to take her off, then a money issue is the cherry on top. It's horrible and I would hate to be in their shoes.

      January 12, 2014 at 2:54 pm |
  6. Sheryl

    Why is it that when we make a statement about our health, there seems to be thousands of interpretations of our statement. She had the discussion with her husband, they made the decision to not be kept "alive" by artificial means. The woman is dead and has already left her body. Let the family, please let them have peace and closure.

    January 10, 2014 at 5:10 pm |
  7. Becky Leach

    If that had happened to me, while carrying my son, I'd want them to do everything they could to bring my child into this world with the best odds possible for his survival. I don't know of any mother who would say differently.

    January 10, 2014 at 2:34 pm |
    • Jennifer

      I am a mom of two young kids, and I myself know plenty of women who would disagree with you. I would not want to be reduced to a dead body incubator for a baby that is likely damaged by my death and my husband may not even want. If the husband wants to maintain what he believes she would have wanted, to be taken off line ventilator at her death then that should be respected. He is the one to decide, he is the one who has a toddler to think of and focus on, if he has chosen to grieve her death and move on then that it what should be done. It's not like taking her off the ventilator is allowing her to die, she is already dead people, and no hospital has the right to force her to incubate a baby upon her death. So there you go, you have met a mother who would not want to continue in that state, pregnant or not. I would not want to bring life into the world from my dead body. I respect that you would, and you should put that in writing if it ever happens to you, but you need to acknowledge that others may feel very differently, and her husband knows her best and feels strongly that she would not want to continue this way.

      January 11, 2014 at 2:26 am |
  8. cecilia

    I would have to agree with the hospital. Give the baby a chance to live. How far along is she is also a factor.

    January 10, 2014 at 12:28 pm |
  9. Janine

    I don't understand why they would want to let her die, when she has a living baby in her, wouldn't that end the babies life as well? I wouldn't think she would be happy with that decision?

    January 10, 2014 at 12:25 pm |
  10. Janet from Canada

    This is not an issue in Canada but I wonder who will pay for this woman's medical care. Will the family get a bill? Will their insurance company pay anything? Or will the hospital and state government be responsible? If she was 2-3 months along when she died, then you're talking about as much as 6 months of ICU care. This is a mess on so many levels.

    January 10, 2014 at 9:37 am |
    • Penny

      If, as is suspected, the baby was also deprived of oxygen, long enough to do serious damage, who will pay for the extra care, and medical expenses of this child? The father and family should not have to have this forced on them. it can be a horrific expense and last for many, many years. If that is the case, the child will be a constant reminder of how the mother died to the husband and later the older child. This is just such a sad case and no one wins. Whether someone is pregnant or not,it should not be a factor in leaving them on life support or not!

      January 14, 2014 at 11:02 am |
  11. judy

    What I'd like to know is.. who is going to pay the hospital bill, since the hospital and or state is forcing the family to keep this woman on a ventilator and not the family... Bu that account the hospital and/or the state should assume the responsibility of covering the debts.

    January 10, 2014 at 8:18 am |

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