As you know by now, a judge in Fort Worth ordered Marlise Munoz removed from life support by Monday morning. While the hospital has the right to appeal, it made a key concession that, to my non-lawyer's mind, effectively derails any chance of it being successful. For the first time, hospital officials conceded what Marlise's husband, Erick, has been maintaining for several months--that Marlise is brain dead, and is therefore legally dead under Texas law.
On Friday, John Peter Smith Hospital acknowledged for the first time that Marlise Munoz, who is being kept on a respirator under Texas law, has been brain dead since November 28 and that the "fetus gestating inside Mrs. Munoz is not viable," according to court documents released before a Friday hearing.Those concessions were made in a statement of facts agreed to by the Munoz family's legal team and the Tarrant County DA (which argued the case for the hospital since JPS is a public hospital) before today's proceeding. Read it here. The Texas Health and Safety Code states in no uncertain terms that if a person has "irreversible cessation of all spontaneous brain function," that person isn't just in a coma--he or she is legally dead.
The woman's husband has repeatedly made these claims in his efforts to have her removed from the machines so the family can bury her.
Erick Munoz contends doctors told him his wife "had lost all activity in her brain stem" and an accompanying chart stated that she was "brain dead." He has further called her "nothing more than an empty shell" who should be left to rest in peace.
In making this concession, JPS has, to my mind, tacitly admitted that it knew Marlise was brain dead, and yet kept her on life support anyway. How grotesque can you get? By definition, you can't maintain life support on a person who is dead.
According to WFAA-TV in Dallas, the Munoz family's requests ignored the interests of the fetus. Well, that dog no longer hunts with its concession that it knew Marlise was legally dead. It simply defies believability that there were no means of making sure that the fetus was viable short of essentially making Marlise's corpse a human incubator.
At least one attorney thinks JPS will appeal. But unless it can justify how it can maintain life support on a dead woman, the velocity with which that appeal gets tossed will create quite the breeze.
5:13 PM PT: Several commenters have wondered about who will foot the bill for Marlise's treatment. Basic decency, as well as the hospital's concession that it knew she was legally dead, ought to suggest that the hospital will eat the bill. But considering that they let this go for this long, you never really know.