Pregnant Texas woman kept on life support; Mo., Kan. have same law

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A pregnant Texas woman remains on life support against her family's wishes. The hospital says it can't unplug the ventilator because of state law. The same law exists in Missouri and Kansas.

Marlise Munoz, a mother of one, has been in a Ft. Worth hospital since November after she was found unconscious suffering from a blood clot. She is pregnant, now 20 weeks along, and she is on a ventilator. The hospital won't remove it even though her husband and family want it to.

"We both knew that we didn't want to be on life support," said Erick Munoz.

The hospital says it's following the law. Texas is one of 12 states that say regardless of the progression of pregnancy, a woman must remain on life-sustaining treatment until she gives birth. That's even if she has an advance directive saying she doesn't want life support. Missouri and Kansas have the same law. The president of the Center for Practical Bioethics says it's clear.

"Regardless of the advance directive, there's a decision that the state's interests trump," said John Carney.

A spokesman for Kansans for Life says the group favors the law.

"Women act as a guardian of the child in the womb, and advance directives that do not foresee that occasion should not automatically be considered as a woman's true feelings once she is pregnant," said Kathy Ostrowski.

But Carney says there are also the family's wishes to consider.

"I think we need to be very, very careful about deciding that Mr. Munoz has no moral agency here because he does. He has a very important role to play," said Carney.

There's the question of whether the Texas law actually applies in this case. The family says doctors have told them that Munoz is brain-dead. In that case, it wouldn't be life-sustaining treatment. But the hospital has not said she is brain-dead.

There's also the question of when the fetus will be delivered, and whether it's suffered permanent damage.

Carney believes the case will result in state legislatures reconsidering laws, and so will the case of the California girl that stands in sharp contrast since her family wants her to remain on a ventilator.

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