Just when it seems the state of Texas couldn’t be any more cruel in its treatment of women, it forces a dead woman to incubate a fetus. This is in spite of the wishes of the woman, clearly expressed during her life, as well as the wishes of both her husband and her parents.
Here’s the video from a local news report:
[Editor’s note: After two excruciating months, the hospital finally complied with a court order to remove the dead woman from “life support” on Jan. 26.]
Already dead, but put on life support anyway.
Marlise Munoz collapsed on her kitchen floor shortly after Thanksgiving and died, apparently from a pulmonary embolism. Her husband, Erick, found her not breathing and with no pulse. Her brain may not have had oxygen for up to an hour. Erick performed CPR and called an ambulance. After Marlise was taken to John Peter Smith Hospital, in Ft. Worth, her heart was artificially restarted with electric shocks and drugs. She was put on life-support because she was 14 weeks pregnant and, at that point, a fetal heartbeat could be detected. However, her brain showed no activity and she was legally dead.
Marlise and Erick were both paramedics and agreed together, in no uncertain terms, that they never wanted to be kept alive artificially. They had seen the bad outcomes of such cases too often in their work. But when the family requested that Marlise be taken off of life support, the hospital refused because of the pregnancy.
Ernest Machado, Marlise’s father, said, “That poor fetus had the same lack of oxygen, the same electric shocks, the same chemicals that got her heart going again. For all we know, it’s in the same condition that Marlise is in.”
Nevertheless, the hospital insisted that Texas law prohibits them from disconnecting a pregnant woman from life support. The law overrides a woman’s own choices about the end of her life. Never mind that, at 14 weeks, the pregnancy could have been legally terminated by abortion. Never mind that the family wanted to peacefully release Marlise, who was already dead. Never mind that Erick already had a living child, now 15 months old, to care for and support. As a single parent trying to cope with his grief, he’s being forced to split his time between his son and his wife’s hospital room.
According to the New York Times, the 1989 Texas law states that a person may not withdraw or withhold ‘life-sustaining’ treatment from a pregnant patient. Medical ethicists think the hospital is misinterpreting state law. Thomas Mayo, an expert on biomedical ethics with the Southern Methodist University law school, told the NYT, “If she is dead, I don’t see how she can be a patient.”
Medical experts agree, the hospital is misinterpreting the law.
Three medical experts interviewed by the Associated Press agreed. Two of them helped write the law. Dr. Robert Fine, an ethicist with the Baylor Health Care System, said, “This patient is neither terminally nor irreversibly ill. Under Texas law, this patient is legally dead.”
In the meantime, Marlise’s husband and parents have no part in making decisions about what will happen to her, or how the medical team will proceed with the fetus. They hope that their story will prompt others to change the law. Their already long, hard process of saying good-bye was made tortuous by the state of Texas. Plus, the media attention over the controversy has triggered ugly accusations against the family by the anti-woman right.
Ernest Machado expressed his sadness over the personal ordeal of not being able to say good-bye. He said that when he touched his daughter’s skin, she felt like a mannequin. “That makes it very hard for me to go up and visit. I don’t want to remember her as a rubber figure.” Her mother put their situation more bluntly, describing it as being “in hell”.
In hell? Of course they are. They’re in Texas. It’s up to the voters to hold their lawmakers accountable — and deliver future families from such a heart-rending fate.
Updates to this sad and grisly story from AI.
- Dead Texas Woman’s Fetus Revealed To Be ‘Distinctly Abnormal’
- Texas Judge Orders Hospital To End ‘Life Support’ For Dead, Pregnant Mom
- Texas Hospital Complies With Court Order To Remove Brain Dead Woman From Life Support