Washington: A US judge ordered a Texas hospital Friday to pull the plug on a brain-dead, pregnant woman it had kept on life support against the family`s wishes.
Texas is among 12 US states that have adopted strict laws requiring that a woman be kept alive if pregnant, regardless of the stage of her pregnancy.
The grieving husband and parents of Marlise Munoz -- who was declared brain dead on November 28 when she was just 14 weeks pregnant -- had been fighting to abide by what they said were her stated wishes and have her taken off the respirator.
But John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth refused, arguing that while Munoz`s brain could no longer keep her body alive and functioning, she was not actually dead.
The case sparked a debate over medical rights and the consequences of legislative efforts to curtail abortion and grant rights to fetuses.
"This tragic story holds implications far beyond one family`s nightmare," said Barbara Coombs Lee, president of Compassion & Choices, a group that advocates for end-of-life choice.
"If institutional decisions can override family decisions and appropriate a body to serve its own purposes or that of the state, then no one is safe from government overreach."
In an abrupt shift, the hospital filed a court brief Friday in which it finally agreed that the now 22-week-old fetus was "not viable."
Her family had released a statement earlier this week stating that medical records showed the fetus is "distinctly abnormal."
"Sadly, this information is not surprising due to the fact that the fetus, after being deprived of oxygen for an indeterminate length of time, is gestating within a dead and deteriorating body, as a horrified family looks on in absolute anguish, distress and sadness," the statement added.
State District Judge RH Wallace ordered that all "life-sustaining treatment" be removed from Munoz`s body by 5:00 pm (2300 GMT) Monday.
"JPS Health Network appreciates the potential impact of the consequences of the order on all parties involved and will be consulting with the Tarrant County District Attorney`s office," the hospital said.
Munoz, 33, collapsed at her Texas home in late November due to a possible pulmonary embolism as she got up to care for her first-born son, who is now 15 months old.
Her husband Erick, a paramedic, was able to resuscitate her. But she was suffering from cardiac arrest and respiratory failure when she arrived at hospital and could not be saved.