Judge in Case of Father Trying to Kill His Unborn Child Recuses Herself

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 17, 2014   |   2:04PM   |   Fort Worth, TX

The judge in the controversial case of a father who is attempting to end his pregnant wife’s life support, which would kill his unborn child, has recused herself.

Marlise Munoz collapsed in her home last November from an apparent blood clot in her lungs when she was 14 weeks pregnant with her second child. Her husband and other family members have asked the John Peter Smith Hospital in Ft. Worth to remove Marlise from life support after they were told she was “brain dead.” Ending life support would also end her unborn baby’s life.

So far John Peter Smith Hospital officials have refused to follow the family’s request, citing a Texas law that prohibits hospitals from removing life support from pregnant women.

Erick Munoz, who says a doctor has told him his wife is brain dead, has filed a lawsuit against JPS Health Network but State District Judge Melody Wilkinson has recused herself from hearing it. Bud Kennedy, a reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, indicates Wilkinson’s campaign treasurer is also general counsel for JPS Health Network, the parent company of the hospital.

As the local newspaper reports:

Her husband, Erick Muñoz, sued JPS on Tuesday, asking that the hospital stop further medical procedures and remove his wife from respirators, ventilators or other “life support” and release her body.

JPS officials have refused, citing an Texas law that requires pregnant women to be kept on life support until the fetus is viable, usually at 24 to 26 weeks.

In a letter to Jeff Walker, administrative judge for this region, Wilkinson noted: “The Munoz case has time sensitive issues which require immediate attention. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.”

Walker said he will be out of town until Monday and state District Judge R.H. Wallace is serving as presiding judge. When Wallace’s office receives Wilkinson’s notice, the case will be reassigned, Walker said.

The Tarrant County district attorney’s office, which is representing JPS in the suit, declined through a spokeswoman to comment Thursday night on Wilkinson’s recusal.

The attorneys representing the Muñoz family did not comment on the recusal, but in an emailed statement, attorney Jessica Janicek said: “We have recently received Marlise Munoz’s medical records, and can now confirm that Mrs. Munoz is clinically brain dead, and therefore deceased under Texas law.”

Wilkinson could not be reached to comment Thursday night.

The designation of “brain death” is a controversial one and presents moral and ethical issues, especially when the life of a baby is involved. There are many cases where babies have survived after the mothers have experienced similar situations to that of Marlise Munoz. There is a very strong possibility that Marlise’s baby could survive, given a little more time.

“We feel great compassion for the family of Marlise Munoz and her pre-born baby. No one ever wants to be in their difficult and tragic situation,” said Troy Newman, President of Operation Rescue. “Marlise wanted this baby, and as long as there is a chance that he or she can be saved, we support John Peter Smith Hospital in their bid to follow the law and protect this baby’s life.”

Writing at LifeNews, Calvin Frieberger says abortion activists are upset.

As Newsbusters’ Katie Yoder documents, pro-aborts far and wide are seething with rage over this. But curiously, that’s despite the fact that almost none of their token justifications are present. Delivery will no longer affect Marlise’s well-being, and as Cox points out, whatever end-of-life wishes she had told Erick almost certainly didn’t account for the remote possibility that ending her life would also end her son or daughter’s, in what is presumably a desired pregnancy.

That means a man is presuming to make a woman’s reproductive decision for her—with the full backing of the supposed “reproductive rights” champions. Apparently the outcome of a dead baby is all that matters.


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