In November 2013, 33-year-old Marlise Munoz collapsed on the kitchen floor of her Fort Worth, Texas home, suffering from a blood clot in her lungs. Munoz, who was 14 weeks pregnant at the time, was later pronounced brain dead at John Peter Smith Hospital.
Her husband and family were soon shocked to learn that the hospital would not remove Munoz from life support as they had requested and which would have been in line with her “do not resuscitate,” or DNR, directive. The hospital argued that a Texas law prohibited them from doing so because she was pregnant.
A wrenching legal battle ensued, with legal, medical, ethical and end-of-life issues colliding with the emotional pain of Munoz’s sudden and tragic death. In the process, many tough questions surfaced: Was Munoz now just a “host” for the fetus, as her husband claimed? Were hospital officials misinterpreting Texas law? What does brain death really mean?