Brain Dead and Pregnant: Why One Baby Was Born and One Wasn't

With two stories gaining national attention this winter about brain-dead, pregnant women and their unborn children, it's difficult to think of one without the other.

In Canada, Robyn Benson was kept on life support for more than a month to save her unborn baby.

More than 3,000 miles away, in Texas, Marlise Munoz's husband fought to take her off life support .

But how similar - and how different - were they really?

Compare them side by side here.

Munoz StoryBenson Story
Fort Worth, Texas, United States Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Marlise Munoz Robyn Benson
33 years old 32 years old
14 weeks pregnant 22 weeks pregnant
On Nov. 26, her husband found her not breathing and unresponsive in the middle of night on the kitchen floor. On Dec. 28, she told her husband she had a headache, and he left to buy pain medicine. When he returned, she was unresponsive.
Doctors declared Marlise Munoz brain dead. Doctors declared Robyn Benson brain dead.
Marlise Munoz's husband said she never wanted to be kept on life support and asked to be able to let her die. Marlise Munoz was a paramedic and had discussed this with her family. At 14 weeks, the fetus wouldn't be viable for several months. Robyn Benson's husband, Dylan Benson, said she would have wanted to stay on life support until her baby could be born. At 22 weeks, the fetus was nearly viable.
Doctors refused to remove Marlise Munoz from life support because of a state law that, they said, prohibited them from removing "life-sustaining treatment" from a pregnant woman. Doctors offered to keep Robyn Benson on life support until her unborn baby could be born.
On Jan. 14, Erick Munoz sued the hospital to have his wife taken off life support, arguing that doctors were misinterpreting the law. His lawyers later said scans revealed that the then-22-week-old fetus was "distinctly abnormal." Dylan Benson agreed to keep his wife on life support and kept a blog to update Baby Iver's progress.
On Jan. 24, a judge ruled in Erick Munoz's favor. He said the state law keeping Marlise Munoz on life support didn't apply to her because she was already dead and ordered that she be removed from life support. Dylan Benson also started a fundraising effort to cover the family's expenses. His original goal was $36,000. But people have contributed more than $150,000, so far.
On Jan. 26, Marlise Munoz was removed from life support. The family grieved and named the unborn baby Nicole. On Feb. 8, Iver was born. Robyn Benson was removed from life support shortly thereafter.

Erick Munoz, left, husband of Marlise Munoz, is escorted by attorneys as he walks to 96th District Court in Fort Worth, Texas, Jan. 24, 2014. Iver Benson, held by father Dylan, was born on Feb. 8, 2014, after his brain-dead mother spent more than a month on life support. (Credit: Tim Sharp/AP Photo|

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Benson was fundraising to cover his wife's medical expenses. This was not the case. He was fundraising to cover lost wages and other expenses related to child care.