Rep. Four Price: State statute may call for clarification

A Texas statute that addresses a hospital's responsibility to provide life support treatments to a pregnant woman is causing some to discuss their options.

Mary Barlow, director of corporate communications at Baptist St. Anthony's (BSA) said, when information about the Marlise Muñoz case became public, medical experts at BSA addressed the issue.

"It brings up, 'How would we handle that?'" Barlow said. "'What do we do to make sure that the patient is the focus of all our efforts,' and we also have to work within the efforts of the laws."

According to multiple reports Muñoz was taken to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, Nov. 26, 2013. Two days later doctors declared her clinically brain dead. She was 14 weeks pregnant, and spent nearly two months on life support because a state statute states no person is allowed to remove life support treatment from a pregnant person.

Sunday a district judge ordered the hospital to remove the 33-year-old mom from life support.

Local Attorney Shawn Twing said, the statute that initially kept Muñoz on life support may face several questions from the public in days ahead.

"The statute really does not address the situation where the patient is clinically dead and has no chance of recovery," Twing said.

According to Twing a person may be considered a patient without being clinically alive, therefore he believes the statute's intent was to protect the fetus.

"At the end of the day the hospital found itself caught between two different competing interests," Twing said. "There's the ethics and morals physicians code on one hand, then you have the statute on the other hand that has criminal penalties."

Rep. Four Price said, the section of the statute that may need clarification is whether or not a person who meets the clinical definition of brain dead should be considered a patient under Texas law.

"I think between now and January 2015 when the next legislative session begins, there will be some dialogue and debate on whether the statute is clear or it's just not being interpreted consistently," Price said.