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Pregnant Woman Kept On Life Support Against Her Family’s Wishes

Pregnant Woman Kept On Life Support Against Her Family’s Wishes

Marlise Munoz lays in a hospital on a ventilator, unlikely to ever regain consciousness, after a likely pulmonary embolism. Her husband, Erick, says she would not want to be left on life support. Her family agrees with him. In fact, no one who knows her has any doubt that she would want to be let go. The hospital, however, says no.

Marlise is pregnant. Texas law says she has to stay alive long enough to give birth.

The story of Marlise Munoz and her family is a tragic one, where a married couple with a small toddler who were expecting their second child finds their joy cut tragically short due to an unforeseen health issue. The Munozs, who are both in the health profession, had often discussed what they would do if in this sort of situation where they were dependent on life support and had prepared each other for their decision if such a thing were to occur. However, no one could have expected that the wishes of Marlise could be overruled by the state simply because, by virtue of being pregnant, Texas claims to have vested interest in continuing the “life” of the fetus in her womb.

“We have a responsibility as a good corporate citizen here in Tarrant County to also provide the highest quality care we can for all of our patients,” J.R. Labbe, vice president of communications and community affairs for JPS Health Network, which is caring for Marlise Munoz, said in a statement to CNN news about the case. “But at all times, we will follow the law as it is applicable to health care in the state of Texas. And state law here says you cannot withhold or withdraw life sustaining treatment for a pregnant patient. It’s that clear.”

Ms. Munoz is not even halfway through her pregnancy, and the family and doctors are unsure whether or not her fetus was affected by her embolism, including the time that she spent without oxygen before she was brought to the hospital and resuscitated. Medical professionals can only say at this point that the fetus has a strong heartbeat, and that they will do more tests at 24 weeks ó a point perhaps purposefully set after Texas’s new later abortion ban, which has no exceptions for a fetus with medical deficiencies.

For Mr. Munoz, that means weeks more of his wife left on life support, which she was adamantly opposed to, and then learning whether the hospital will remove the fetus once it reaches viability, or continue the pregnancy another few months to full term. In other words, the hospital is literally keeping her alive as an incubator until the hospital chooses to deliver the Munoz’s child, with or without the family’s consent.

Abortion opponents find the situation not only completely reasonable, but laud the state for overruling the woman and her family’s wishes.

“Good for Texas and good for little Junior,” declares Personhood USA, an activist group hoping to ban all abortion and hormonal contraception. “Obviously, the woman should continue receiving life support until her baby is born. Sadly, Junior may one day learn that his father wanted him dead.”

Texas isn’t alone when it comes to denying the medical wishes of a pregnant person or her family when it comes to ending life support. According to the Center for Women Policy Studies, 14 states will force someone to remain on live support if it is “probable” that the pregnancy will result in a live birth if left alone: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Dakota.

Should the state’s “interests” in producing a live birth override the family, who wants to remove Ms. Munoz from life support and begin the grieving process? Even if you believe that it isn’t harming anyone to keep Ms. Munoz alive, the precedent it sets is quite frightening. Attorneys speaking about the case to told the station that “[I]tís unlikely a motherís wishes would be allowed to override a childís potential.”

In other words, a pregnant person’s desires will always come second to whatever is necessary to ensure a potential embryo or fetus is born. That is a truly chilling thought for anyone who values a living person’s rights.

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Photo credit: Wikimedia commons

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2:05AM PST on Feb 24, 2014

Oh, I wanted to sign the petition but I can see she eventually got put off life support. Very glad about that.

2:01AM PST on Feb 24, 2014

Such ethical issues often bring up much debate... it makes me think of the famous Terri Schiavo case, though very different, but the question was the same : keep her on life support or not?
What Personhood USA said really makes me sick, especially "Sadly, Junior may one day learn that his father wanted him dead.” Such a cruel and judgmental thing to say.
I´ll definitely sign the petition.

4:39PM PST on Jan 24, 2014

Thank you , Joseph

So glad, the family is able to put Marlise to rest.

Sure hope, that the state will be paying for any costs that this family had incurred during this time.

4:19PM PST on Jan 24, 2014

The Houston Chronicle reported at 4:24 CST that the judge has orderes the hospital to unplug life support,

Rest in peace, Marlise.

3:57PM PST on Jan 24, 2014

Any idea, what they are now proposing to do?

Such a shame , this has gone on as long for all concerned.

1:54PM PST on Jan 24, 2014

Absolutely right Mary. There is another site discussing this case that I provided this update on.

Have a look.

Husband seeking to remove from life support

(FORT WORTH STAR TELEGRAM) Attorneys for the family of a pregnant Haltom City woman who has been on life support at John Peter Smith Hospital for eight weeks issued a statement late Wednesday that the fetus is “distinctly abnormal.”

The 22-week-old fetus’s lower extremities are deformed and it is impossible to determine its gender, the attorneys for the woman’s husband, Erick Muñoz, said in an emailed statement.

“The fetus suffers from hydrocephalus [water on the brain]. It also appears that there are further abnormalities, including a possible heart problem, that cannot be specifically determined due to the immobile nature of Mrs. Muñoz’s deceased body,” the statement said.


Its not like those of us who have worked in the medical field didn't know this or write about it

1:40PM PST on Jan 24, 2014

I heard a report today that states the fetus has heart anomalies, hydrocephalus and it appears to have lower extremity deformities......the matter is in court today..

5:33PM PST on Jan 11, 2014

Please anyone concerned about this , when reading it - in case you haven't noticed the petition ...please sign it here

2:45PM PST on Jan 11, 2014

Well said, Ellen!

9:18AM PST on Jan 11, 2014

Dr. Albert Ellis PhD Psychology wrote:

Religion’s “absolutistic, perfectionistic thinking is the prime creator of the two most corroding of human emotions: anxiety and hostility.”

Ellis held that beliefs are irrational if they: (1) Distort reality (are not supported by the evidence), (2) contain illogical ways of evaluating oneself, others, and the world, and/or (3) create extreme emotions and block a person from achieving their goals.

These are apparently playing a roll in Texas legislature and how it is being applied to cases like this.

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