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Records Confirm Pregnant Woman On Life Support Is Brain Dead, Family Attorneys Say

Marlise Munoz, right, has been on life support since November. Her husband, Erick, is on the left.

The judge in the case of a hospital's refusal to remove a pregnant North Texas patient from life support has recused herself from hearing the suit filed by the woman’s family.

State District Judge Melody Wilkinson recused herself Thursday from the lawsuit over the status of Marlise Muñoz. Wilkinson has offered no explanation.

Meanwhile, attorneys representing the Muñoz family say that medical records released by John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth confirm that Marlise Muñoz is brain dead.

Attorneys sent an email to The Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: “We have recently received Marlise Muñoz’s medical records, and can now confirm that Mrs. Muñoz is clinically brain dead, and therefore deceased under Texas law.”

Muñoz, a Haltom City woman who fell unconscious in November while pregnant, has been on life support at John Peter Smith Hospital.

Erick Muñoz sued the hospital Tuesday, seeking his wife's removal from life support.

Hospital officials contend Texas law prohibits them from removing life support because Muñoz is pregnant. The hospital has said she isn’t dead and that her condition is serious.

The Muñoz lawsuit accuses the hospital of misapplying the law because Muñoz is legally considered dead.

In November, Erick Muñoz found his wife unconscious on her kitchen floor. She was about 14 weeks pregnant with her second child.

At John Peter Smith Hospital, doctors informed Erick Muñoz that his wife had “lost all activity in her brain stem, and was for all purposes brain dead," the suit states.

Erick Muñoz also saw “brain dead” listed in writing in her medical charts.

“Erick has been informed by JPS, and from that information believes, that Marlise is brain dead,” the lawsuit states.

Eric Aasen is KERA’s managing editor. He helps lead the station's news department, including radio and digital reporters, producers and newscasters. He also oversees, the station’s news website, and manages the station's digital news projects. He reports and writes stories for the website and contributes pieces to KERA radio. He's discussed breaking news live on various public radio programs, including The Takeaway, Here & Now and Texas Standard, as well as radio and TV programs in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.