A Texas judge has ordered a pregnant woman on life support to be taken off the life-staining machines after it determined that not only was she brain-dead, but that the fetus she was carrying was not viable. This case has caused many people to reflect on their own medical choices in the face of incapacitation, and what they might be able to do about it.
Husband’s Request to Remove Life Support Granted
The Munoz saga began after Eric Munoz discovered his wife unresponsive in their Fort Worth area home. Her doctors determined that she had suffered from pulmonary embolism. The blood clot left her brain-dead with no chance of recovery. Though life-support machines were able to keep her body functioning, her husband asked her doctors to remove her from those machines in accordance with what he stated were her wishes. Marlise and Eric Munoz were both paramedics, and though Marlise did not have an advance medical directive, Eric says that her wishes about being removed from life support if she were brain dead were quite clear.
Yet Texas law prevented her doctors from complying with Eric’s request. The law stated that doctors could not remove life support from a pregnant woman even in the face of contrary directions or wishes.
Because of the hospital’s refusal to remove life support, Eric Munoz had to ask a Texas court to get involved. After hearing testimony, the court determined that not only was Marlise Munoz brain dead, but that her fetus had also been injured as a result of the pulmonary embolism, and was not viable. After making this determination, the court ordered the hospital to remove Marlise from life support.
National Prominence and Personal Questions
The Munoz case, along with the story of California teen Jahi McMath, has once again caused many people in the nation to consider questions about life, death, and medical choices. In the face of these difficult questions, many people have also had to consider what the laws of their state do and do not allow.
Like Texas, Florida allows people to make advance medical directives that state their medical choices in the event they are incapacitated. Unlike Texas, however, Florida law does not impose limitations on pregnant women. If a pregnant woman in Florida chooses to create an advance medical directive, her doctors will have to comply with the directive terms regardless of whether she is pregnant.
Further, advance directives, regardless of the choices you choose to include within them, allow people to tell their families exactly what they want should the unthinkable happen.
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