The hospital did not ignore her condition. According to the family the hospital did acknowledge her brain death, but once again a hospital cannot declare someone deceased and then continue to provide care. The physician has declared the patient brain dead, but has not announced death because the patient is on life support. Once the physician declares the patient dead then she must be removed from life support, leading to death of the fetus. A physician is not going to make that declaration if he is at risk for criminal prosecution. The hospital did not ignore her condition, they simply did not proceed with a change in her status from living to deceased. This is how any hospital proceeds with a patient on life support because this is how they must proceed, otherwise the hospital has to remove care. Removal of care means the patient is no longer a patient. Someone that is not a patient does not receive medical treatment (i.e. life support), does not receive nursing care to monitor treatment and care for their physical needs and does not even receive a room. The hospital is not ignoring her condition, but is simply not proceeding with the next step which would, as Oniya pointed out, lead to an irreversible condition of death.
This is essentially what the hospital would do if the patient family wanted to keep her on life support. Had the family stated wanting to keep her on life support, nothing medical changed. Yet in that instance the hospital is not “gaming” the system. There is no difference, medically speaking, in either instance. Declaring death is a legal step, there is nothing medical or biological in what the physician would have to do in this instance. The physician is reviewing the current law on declaring death, reviewing medical reports and information to match the criteria for death with his findings and making a declaration for death so that the patient becomes “legally” deceased. Once the patient is legally deceased the hospital can remove care.
As for a safe harbor provision, there is no such thing in this regard. If the family stated wanting her on life support, but the physician went ahead and declared her dead so that the hospital had to remove care. Also if Texas has a law on the books stating that removing life support is illegal and the physician made a move to do so leading in death to the patient and fetus, then he is liable. The criteria is simply being established in that law, not being used to shield the physician. There is not much safe harbor in death.