Recently, a Texas man has been fighting against hospital administrators to have his wife removed from life support in a case that is drawing renewed attention to the differences in advance directive laws around the country.
In late November, Eric Munoz found his wife unconscious and unresponsive on the floor of their Fort Worth, Texas area home. A paramedic, Munoz attempted to revive his wife but was unable to do so. He called for an ambulance and had his wife transported to a local hospital.
Doctors told Munoz that his wife, Marlise, had likely suffered a pulmonary embolism that effectively left her brain-dead. Both Mr. and Mrs. Munoz were experienced paramedics and had discussed the question of receiving life-sustaining treatment in the same type of situation that Marlise found herself in. Eric Munoz said that his wife was very clear about her desire not to be kept alive by machines.
However, what makes the situation more complicated is the fact that Marlise is pregnant with the couple’s second child. Thhough Texas allows people to make advance medical directives that state their medical wishes in the event they should become incapacitated, the law makes an exception for pregnant women. It effectively says that advance directives don’t have any effect if used by pregnant woman.
Florida Advance Directives
Unlike Texas and several other states, Florida does not impose additional limitations on advance directives made or used by women. In Florida, any capable adult can create a living will or health care surrogate—two different types of advance directive—at any time. Florida law does not limit when pregnant women can create or use advance directives. If a woman wishes, for example, to direct her health care surrogate to refuse life-sustaining nutrition or medical care if she is in a terminally ill state when pregnant, she is free to do so.
Out of State Directives
Anyone creating or trying to use an advance directive should always be aware of the often significant differences that exist between states. For sample, it’s quite common for people to move into or out of states that have very different laws about advance directives. If you move from Florida to a state that imposes pregnancy restrictions on your living will or health care surrogate, you will need to know what you new state’s laws allow. Additionally, anyone moving into the state of Florida from a different state might be surprised to find the restrictions that apply to you before no longer do so now that you live in Florida.
In any event, people creating advance directives, or those who have created directives in the past, should always speak to an attorney to be clear about what your rights are.