Hospital considers life-support ruling

Hospital executives in North Texas were conferring Saturday with the district attorney’s office to determine their next step following a judge’s ruling that they must disconnect life support for a pregnant, brain-dead woman, according to a hospital official.

John Peter Smith Hospital spokeswoman J.R. Labbe said that “discussions are ongoing” as administrators weigh the order issued a day earlier by Judge R. H. Wallace Jr. The hospital is owned by Tarrant County and is being represented in the contentious case by the district attorney’s office.

Wallace agreed with a request by Erick Munoz to have life support removed for his wife, Marlise Munoz. She was 14 weeks pregnant with the couple’s second child when her husband found her unconscious Nov. 26, possibly because of a blood clot.

The judge’s ruling could give Erick Munoz a long-awaited chance to bury his wife and move forward to care for their son and his relatives. It would also mean the fetus would never be born.

Wallace gave the Fort Worth hospital until 5 p.m. CST Monday to remove life support. Labbe declined to elaborate Saturday on what the hospital’s next step might be — whether to appeal the judge’s order or comply with it. The hospital previously has said that it has a legal duty to protect the fetus.

The hospital and the family agree that Marlise Munoz meets the criteria to be considered brain-dead — meaning she is dead both medically and under Texas law — and that the fetus could not be born alive this early in the pregnancy.

— Associated Press

Chemical tanks ordered removed

West Virginia’s governor on Saturday ordered the company at the center of a chemical spill that tainted the state capital’s water supply to remove all above-ground storage tanks from the Charleston operation.

A statement released by the office of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) said that Freedom Industries must start the dismantling process by March 15.

The Jan. 9 spill of a chemical used to clean coal at Freedom Industries contaminated the water supply for 300,000 West Virginians, some of whom couldn’t use their tap water for a week.

The order to dismantle and properly dispose of the tanks also includes associated piping and machinery. The facility has 17 tanks. The governor’s statement said that crude MCHM leaked from one of three now-empty tanks containing the chemical at the plant.

Company President Gary Southern told environmental officials last week that a second, less toxic chemical also was mixed in the tank that leaked.

A telephone message left for Southern wasn’t immediately returned Saturday.

— Associated Press

Inmate’s family files suit after execution

The prolonged execution of an inmate during which he repeatedly gasped and snorted amounted to cruel and unusual punishment that should not be allowed to happen again, the inmate’s family said in a federal lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed late Friday, also alleges that the drug maker that produced the medications illegally allowed them to be used for an execution and should be prohibited from making them available for capital punishment.

Dennis McGuire’s Jan. 16 execution lasted 26 minutes, the longest since the state resumed putting inmates to death in 1999, according to an Associated Press analysis.

The lawsuit by McGuire’s family targets Lake Forest, Ill.-based Hospira, the manufacturer of the drugs used in McGuire’s execution. The company knew its drugs were being used for executions but continued to sell them to Ohio, according to the lawsuit, which seeks damages above $75,000.

In 2011, Hospira ended production of sodium thiopental, a drug used by many states for executions, including Ohio, after it couldn’t guarantee to Italian authorities where its factory was located that the drug wouldn’t be used for capital punishment.

The company also has prohibited other drugs from being used in executions, and took the same steps for midazolam and hydromorphone, the drugs used in the McGuire execution, last year, according to a company statement. Hospira said its distributors have also agreed not to sell the drugs to prisons.

— Associated Press

Michaels probes possible security breach: Michaels Stores says it is investigating a possible company data security breach that may have affected its customers’ payment card information. The Irving, Tex., company said Saturday that it launched the probe after learning of possible fraudulent activity on some U.S. payment cards used at the home decor and crafts retailer. Michaels is working with federal law enforcement and data security experts, but has yet to confirm that its systems were compromised.

Ariz. GOP censures McCain: The Arizona Republican Party has formally censured Sen. John McCain, citing a voting record that they say is insufficiently conservative. State party spokesman Tim Sifert said that the resolution to censure McCain was approved by a voice vote Saturday during a meeting of state committee members in Tempe. McCain spokesman Brian Rogers declined to comment on the censure.

— From news services