Jessica Hall Janicek

September 05, 2014

Grayson lecture focuses on Texas end-of-life case

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- One of the attorneys involved in an end-of-life case earlier this year centering on a Texas woman and her 14-week-old fetus will discuss the legal and ethical issues involved next week at Southern Illinois University School of Law.  

Jessica Hall Janicek, who successfully represented the woman’s family in their fight against the hospital’s refusal to terminate the life of the mother, Marlise Muñoz, will present “Brain Dead and Pregnant: The legal and ethical considerations and impact of the Marlise Muñoz case.” Janicek will deliver the 2014 Dr. Arthur Grayson Distinguished Lecture at 5 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 10, in the Hiram H. Lesar Law Building Auditorium.  The lecture is free and open to the public.  A video feed of the lecture will also be available at the SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and news crews are welcome to cover the lecture.  To arrange for interviews or for more information on the event, contact Alicia Ruiz, the law school’s director of communication and outreach, at 618/453-8700.

The case, which generated international interest, centered on a Texas law that prohibits doctors from removing life support for terminally ill pregnant women, regardless of the women’s advance directives.  Muñoz was 14 weeks pregnant in late November 2013 when she collapsed at home and a few days later, on Thanksgiving Day, was declared brain dead.  Muñoz, a paramedic, had previously expressed a desire against the use of life support if the situation arose but she remained on a ventilator for two months while her family attempted to have it removed. During this time doctors determined the fetus would not survive because the unborn child, like its mother, was deprived of oxygen for at least one hour. 

Janicek and her law partner successfully argued that the statute did not apply because Muñoz was already legally dead.  Texas is among about 12 states, including Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri, that have the most restrictive provisions involving living wills and pregnant women.  In Illinois, a physician must conclude it is possible the fetus will develop to the point a live birth can occur with the continuation of life support. 

“With her first-hand knowledge of the case we are really fortunate to have Janicek join us in person to discuss their legal strategies and what this will mean in the future,” Jennifer A. Brobst, assistant professor and director of the law school’s Center for Health Law and Policy, said. 

Brobst hopes that members of the medical and legal professions and the community who attend the lecture consider Janicek’s legal strategies and her experience but also “gain a deeper understanding of the moral considerations regarding maternal-fetal-state conflicts and the legal definitions of life and death.” 

W. Eugene Basanta, the law school’s Southern Illinois Healthcare professor emeritus and health law and policy center director emeritus, said being able to hear from Janicek is a “great opportunity for students and the community to learn about a case that raised many compelling bioethical issues.” 

A family law and appellate attorney, Janicek’s honors include Living Magazine’s “Best Attorney in Northeast Tarrant County” for 2013 and a “2013 Legal Leader on the Rise” by Texas Lawyer, a weekly newspaper. 

Janicek was a student of current law school Dean Cynthia L. Fountaine when Fountaine was on the faculty at Texas A&M University School of Law, then-Texas Wesleyan School of Law.

“I remember Jessica as an engaged and extremely talented student who had a passion for the law and was eager to help others,” Fountaine said.  “It is always gratifying to see former students succeed in ways that make a positive impact not only on the lives of their clients, but also on society in general.  We often lose sight of the important role attorneys play in our legal system, but Jessica's important work reminds us of this.”

Now in its 18th year, the Grayson Distinguished Lecture is one of the longest-running lecture series in the law school. 

The Garwin Family Foundation, created in 1993 for fostering educational and academic research, funds the Grayson Distinguished Lecture.  Ruth and Leo Garwin were founding members of the foundation.  The lecture honors Ruth Garwin’s brother, Arthur Grayson, a Los Angeles surgeon, who died in 1990.  Surgeon Marsha G. Ryan of rural Murphysboro and her brother, anesthesiologist Mark J. Garwin of Cobden, both SIU Carbondale alums, are the Garwins’ children. 

For more information about the lecture, visit