Pulling the plug on a brain-dead woman and her living fetus

A Texas court ordered that life-support be removed from a woman who was considered brain-dead, in accord with her husband’s wishes.  The hospital, though, had been keeping her body going because she was pregnant. So now both the mother and her child are dead.

The developing child was 23-weeks old.  Why couldn’t they have waited even a week and delivered the child?  Consider this Wikipedia piece on fetal viability:

According to studies between 2003 and 2005, 20 to 35 percent of babies born at 23 weeks of gestation survive, while 50 to 70 percent of babies born at 24 to 25 weeks, and more than 90 percent born at 26 to 27 weeks, survive. . . .A baby’s chances for survival increases 3-4% per day between 23 and 24 weeks of gestation and about 2-3% per day between 24 and 26 weeks of gestation. After 26 weeks the rate of survival increases at a much slower rate because survival is high already.


From Brain-dead Texas woman taken off life support – Yahoo News:

A public battle over the fate of a brain-dead, pregnant Texas woman and her fetus ended quietly and privately as she was taken off life support and her family began preparing for her burial.

John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth complied Sunday with a judge’s order to pull any life-sustaining treatment from Marlise Munoz, who was declared brain-dead in November, but kept on machines for the sake of her fetus.

Munoz was removed from the machines shortly afterward and allowed to die. The fetus, which was at 23 weeks’ gestation, was not delivered.

The hospital’s decision brought an apparent end to a case that inspired debates about abortion and end-of-life decisions, as well as whether a pregnant woman who is considered legally and medically dead should be kept on life support for the sake of a fetus, per Texas law. Anti-abortion activists attended Friday’s court hearing and spoke out in favor of trying to deliver the fetus.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.


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