By Jana J. Pruet
FORT WORTH, Texas (Reuters) - A Texas judge on Friday ordered a Fort Worth hospital to remove a brain-dead pregnant woman from life support, after her husband argued the fetus she has been forced to carry under state law is withering in her debilitated body.
The judge ruled that Marlise Munoz, now about 22 weeks pregnant, is dead. She has been on life support in a hospital since November 26 after suffering what her husband, Erick, believes was a pulmonary embolism.
District Judge R.H. Wallace gave John Peter Smith Hospital until January 27 at 5 p.m. U.S. Central Time (1900 ET) to remove the ventilator.
"The defendants are ordered to pronounce Mrs. Munoz dead and remove the ventilator and all other 'life-sustaining' treatment from the body of Marlise Munoz," the judgment read.
Under Texas law, a person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment from a pregnant patient, even if there is a "do not resuscitate" request from the patient or if the family of the patient seeks to end life support.
Lawyers for the hospital had argued they were complying with a law that was intended to protect unborn children.
The couple are both paramedics and have made it known to each other that they do not wish to be kept on life support, Erick said.
Attorneys for Munoz have said the parents of Marlise agreed with her husband's request to turn off the ventilator.
The lawyers also provided medical records they said show that the fetus suffered from oxygen deprivation and appears to have deformed lower extremities.
(Reporting by Jana J. Pruet, writing by Jon Herskovitz, editing by Cynthia Johnston and David Gregorio)