Time for Tarrant County to let Marlise Muñoz go

01/25/2014 7:15 PM

01/26/2014 2:39 PM

The time has come for Tarrant County to let Marlise Muñoz go.

If county officials truly needed a court’s direction to declare the pregnant Haltom City woman dead — as a John Peter Smith Hospital spokeswoman said weeks ago — they have their answer from state District Judge R.H. Wallace.

Throughout Erick Muñoz’s miserable two months by his dead wife’s bedside, officials of the publicly owned hospital have always said they were sympathetic but had to follow a state law requiring artificial life support for any pregnant patient.

After Muñoz’s insurance, public resources will probably have to cover the remaining cost of sustaining a troubled pregnancy to keep JPS covered under the law. More public resources would be needed for more legal defense, appeals and courts.

There is a great argument to be made for sustaining all life, no matter how near the end.

But Texas leaders decided in 1999 to allow a hospital ethics committee to decide life or death in cases of “medical futility.”

That law leaves no such leeway to make the same decision about a fetus.

It should.

Meanwhile, we are left to the decisions of a public hospital led by an appointed board of managers, Chairman Trent Petty of Keller, the overseeing Tarrant County Commissioners Court and their legal advisers from District Attorney Joe Shannon’s office.

With Shannon retiring, his office should not be influenced by the tremendous political pressure from local abortion opponents. Tea Party-minded state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, wrote on social media that he was “working every avenue possible” to keep Muñoz on life support.

The next decision like this probably will fall to a new district attorney.

Two of the three Republican candidates in the March 4 primary disagreed Saturday on how Shannon should proceed.

Former state District Judge Sharen Wilson sent a statement explaining that the district attorney only advises hospital officials.

But she added: “As [a] private citizen, Wilson would hope JPS would appeal and put the baby’s life first.”

Opponent Kathy Lowthorp, an Arlington attorney, disagreed.

The question is not the same as abortion, she said, noting that doctors now describe the fetus as abnormal with little chance to survive.

“The mom should not be used to incubate a baby that is not likely to survive,” Lowthorp wrote.

“Let them [the Muñozes and Marlise Muñoz’s parents, the Machados] have closure.”

Another candidate, attorney George Mackey of Fort Worth, declined to take a side, writing on Facebook that he is saddened at the potential loss of two lives and that “My prayers go out to the Muñoz family.”

It is time for Tarrant County officials to do more than pray.

About Bud Kennedy

Bud Kennedy

@budkennedy

Bud Kennedy is a homegrown Fort Worth guy who started out covering high school football here when he was 16. He went away to the Fort Worth Press and newspapers in Austin and Dallas, then came home in 1981.

Since 1987, he's written more than 1,000 weekly dining columns and more than 3,000 news and politics columns. If you don't like what he says about politics, read him on barbecue.

Email Bud at

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