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Texas Law Keeping Brain Dead Woman “Alive” Because She’s Pregnant

Medicine Law

A woman in Texas who is apparently brain dead is currently spending her sixth week on artificial life support thanks to a Texas law that forbids hospitals from removing pregnant women from life support regardless of what any Living Will might say:

FORT WORTH — The diagnosis was crushing and irrevocable. At 33, Marlise Munoz was brain-dead after collapsing on her kitchen floor in November from what appeared to be a blood clot in her lungs.

But as her parents and her husband prepared to say their final goodbyes in the intensive care unit at John Peter Smith Hospital here and to honor her wish not to be left on life support, they were stunned when a doctor told them the hospital was not going to comply with their instructions. Mrs. Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant, the doctor said, and Texas is one of more than two dozen states that prohibit, with varying degrees of strictness, medical officials from cutting off life support to a pregnant patient.

More than a month later, Mrs. Munoz remains connected to life-support machines on the third floor of the I.C.U., where a medical team monitors the heartbeat of the fetus, now in its 20th week of development. Her case has become a strange collision of law, medicine, the ethics of end-of-life care and the issues swirling around abortion — when life begins and how it should be valued

(…)

“It’s not a matter of pro-choice and pro-life,” said Mrs. Munoz’s mother, Lynne Machado, 60. “It’s about a matter of our daughter’s wishes not being honored by the state of Texas.”

Mrs. Munoz’s father, Ernest Machado, 60, a former police officer and an Air Force veteran, put it even more bluntly. “All she is is a host for a fetus,” he said on Tuesday. “I get angry with the state. What business did they have delving into these areas? Why are they practicing medicine up in Austin?”

Mrs. Munoz’s parents said they wanted to see the law overturned, but they have not sought any legal action against the hospital, though they have not ruled it out either.

The hospital maintains that it is following the law, although several experts in medical ethics said they believed the hospital was misinterpreting it. A crucial issue is whether the law applies to pregnant patients who are brain-dead as opposed to those in a coma or a vegetative state. The law, first passed by the Texas Legislature in 1989 and amended in 1999, states that a person may not withdraw or withhold “life-sustaining treatment” from a pregnant patient.

Medical ethicists are puzzled by the position the hospital is taking:

Legal and ethical experts, meanwhile, said they were puzzled by the conflicting accounts of her condition. Brain death, an absence of neurological activity, can be readily determined, they said. It is legally death, even if other bodily functions can be maintained.

If she is dead, I don’t see how she can be a patient, and I don’t see how we can be talking about treatment options for her,” said Thomas W. Mayo, an expert on health care law and bioethics at the Southern Methodist University law school in Dallas.

Arthur L. Caplan, director of medical ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan, agreed. “The Texas Legislature can’t require doctors to do the impossible and try to treat someone who’s dead,” Mr. Caplan said. “I don’t think they intended this statute the way the hospital is interpreting it.”

The restrictive measures were largely adopted in the 1980s, with the spread of laws authorizing patients to make advance directives about end-of-life care like living wills and health care proxies, said Katherine A. Taylor, a lawyer and bioethicist at Drexel University in Philadelphia. The provisions to protect fetuses, she said, helped ease the qualms of the Roman Catholic Church and others about such directives.

Critics of the hospital’s actions also note that the fetus has not reached the point of viability outside the womb and that Ms. Munoz would have a constitutional right to an abortion.

“These laws essentially deny women rights that are given others to direct their health care in advance and determine how they want to die,” Ms. Taylor said. “The law can make a woman stay alive to gestate the fetus.”

The statute in question is contained right in the part of the Texas Code that permits people to create Living Wills, or as they are called in some states, Advance Medical Directives and is fairly short and straightforward, saying simply that “A person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient.” There does not appear that there is any way under Texas law that a person drafting a Living Will can void this provision of the law. Additionally, it doesn’t appear that the law makes any distrinction regardng the condition of the patient, meaning that someone such as Mrs. Munoz, who is effectively dead for all intents and purposes, and there is also no distinction made between someone who is, say 8 1/2 months pregnant and someone who, like Munoz was when she was first taken to the hospital, is only 3 1/2 months pregnant, which is far outside any reasonable range of viability, and her current 5th month of pregnancy is, at the very least, at teh very outer edges of fetal viability. Indeed, under this law, it would appear that under this law, a woman who is a mere few weeks pregnant and reports to the Emergency Room in a condition that eventually evolves into brain death would be forcibly kept alive for the next 8-9 months regardless of what her wishes might be as expressed in an otherwise legal document, and despite the wishes of her closes family members. This is, to say the least, not only fundamentally absurd but absolutely cruel and inhuman.

Not surprisingly, the “pro-life” crowd thinks all of this is a great idea:

In Texas, the law and the hospital’s efforts to abide by it have drawn support among opponents of abortion. “The unborn child should be recognized as a separate person,” said Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life. He added, “I would say that, even if she were brain-dead, I would favor keeping treatments going to allow the child to continue to survive, with the hope the child could be delivered alive.”

Indeed, that last part raises a good point. Even if the hospital keeps this poor shell of a woman alive to the point of fetal viability, there’s no guarantee that they will be able to deliver a healthy baby, or that the fetus is currently being harmed by the treatment being used to keep the shell that was once its mother alive. And what are these “pro life” advocates going to do if the child is born? Are they going to help its father raise the child?  Are they going to explain to the child why they were in favor of keeping its mother alive as some kind of weird semi-human incubator so it could be born? And who is going to pay the mounting medical bills from this situation?

If Marlise Munoz didn’t already have a Living Will when she was tragically and suddenly struck down, or if the fetus in question were far closer to viability than it was at the time that this happened, then I might see the logic and humanity in keeping her alive long enough for the fetus to be ready to be born. Even then, though, I’d say that the state and the hospital ought to defer to the wishes of the family in the end. Cases like this, though, are nothing more than monumentally cruel, not only to the rights of Mrs. Munoz, but also to her dignity as a human being and the suffering that her family has no doubt been living through for the past two months. This being Texas, it’s unlikely that this law, first adopted all the way back in 1989, will be changed any time soon, but it most certainly ought to be.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. C. Clavin says:

    That’s just f’ing disgusting no matter how you look at it.
    These people…the anti-choice zealots behind these sorts of things…are demented.
    They are busy controlling her reproductive organs even after she is dead.
    They all need serious psychological help.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 35 Thumb down 6

  2. James Pearce says:

    Tragic, but there has to be more to this story. First guess is that the Munoz family can’t prove that Marlise is dead. Where’s the death certificate?

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 21

  3. rudderpedals says:

    Death panel FAIL

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  4. grumpy realist says:

    Well, considering that this is what the so-called “pro-life” zealots think of any woman….her main value is only as a sentient incubator to be forced to carry a fetus to term, whether she wants to have it leaching off her organs or not….whether the pregnancy was due to a rape or not….or even if her life is put at risk because of the pregnancy…..

    The artificial womb can’t come soon enough.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 33 Thumb down 7

  5. Ron Beasley says:

    There is not even any reason to believe the fetus is or ever will be viable. Mrs. Munoz was without oxygen for 16 minutes which means the fetus was without oxygen for 16 minutes. This is just barbaric.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 48 Thumb down 2

  6. beth says:

    This is just ghoulish. It’s like something from The Matrix come to life.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  7. inhumans99 says:

    @James Pearce: James, I do not think it matters if the family had been provided with a death certificate (longform, shortform, tattooed on her forehead, etc.), the law is being interpreted as saying her pregnancy invalidates any attempt to bring closure to Mrs. Munoz’s family, and hold a funeral.

    This story has a mad science vibe around it, and should make plenty of folks on both sides of the aisle (pro life/choice) uncomfortable, to say the least.

    This is a heavy story, and I am about to attempt what will most likely be considered a really bad attempt at being humorous, but I almost feel like Doug should have put up the Picard face palm image in regards to the hospitals actions regarding Mrs. Munoz’s body.

    This story is well, not quite ghastly (well kinda soft of)…it is just…ughh.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  8. Scott says:

    First, this is tragic. Second, I think the family wishes should have primacy over the state. There isn’t even any conflict within the family.

    My understanding is that the woman is dead, i.e, not in a vegetative state and only kept functional by totally artificial means. Legally, I understand there is a difference between the two and the law doesn’t apply to a dead person.

    Philosophically, I think nature should run its course. I find a deep contradiction in those who are deeply religious and believe in God’s will but are willing to subvert that will.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 32 Thumb down 0

  9. Stonetools says:

    But think of the unborn child’s right to life!
    What’s interesting here is that the state of Texas will spend millions to keep alive a fetus that may never be viable. Once the child is born, of course , it’s on its own.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 35 Thumb down 0

  10. C. Clavin says:

    Who is paying to keep this corpse on life-support so that a fetus…who was without oxygen for 16 minutes…can be still-born?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 1

  11. Scott says:

    @grumpy realist: In the Dune series by Frank Herbert, the Bene Tleilax have reduced women to just that, wombs on life support. They are also a fanatical totalitarian theocracy. Hmmm.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  12. al-Ameda says:

    Mrs. Munoz’s father, Ernest Machado, 60, a former police officer and an Air Force veteran, put it even more bluntly. “All she is is a host for a fetus,” he said on Tuesday. “I get angry with the state. What business did they have delving into these areas? Why are they practicing medicine up in Austin?”

    @grumpy realist:

    Well, considering that this is what the so-called “pro-life” zealots think of any woman….her main value is only as a sentient incubator to be forced to carry a fetus to term, whether she wants to have it leaching off her organs or not….whether the pregnancy was due to a rape or not….or even if her life is put at risk because of the pregnancy…..

    The artificial womb can’t come soon enough.

    Exactly.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  13. BIll says:

    Anyone remember the case of Susan Torres? James Joyner blogged about her story here. In that case, the brain mother was being kept alive so she could deliver the baby(not fetus. Moms don’t say ‘I’m carrying a fetus now.’ Yes and I read what the grandfather supposedly said.). In the Torres case, the family’s wishes were that Susan Torres be kept alive.

    As for any living wills, AMDS, did Marlise Munoz ever talk about or consider what she wanted done if certain things happened when she was pregnant? A pregnant mother is usually protective of the life inside of her.

    Doug- According to the article Munoz is twenty weeks pregnant. I don’t know of a case of a baby born at that time living. There may have been a case, but the odds are through the roof for any child born before 24 weeks. I know something about premature babies. My son Daniel was born 11 years ago this January 25th. He was 28.5 weeks and Daniel died the next day.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  14. Franklin says:

    If I detach myself from the human situation here, it will be interesting to see how these pro-lifer’s morbid experiment turns out. A baby without oxygen for 16 minutes followed by incubation in a brain-dead mother with who knows what sort of nutrition actually making it to the baby.

    Of course if the baby is born disabled, I’m sure Republicans will be happy to pay to support its health issues and so forth. Because limited government.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 29 Thumb down 0

  15. KM says:

    People need to accept brain-death is DEATH. Period. You don’t come back from that. Anything you do to someone who is brain-dead is abuse of a corpse. Between this and the Jahi McMath issue, its blatantly clear we need more medical training for the basic public so they can understand what you can recover from (coma) and what you can’t (complete cerebral cessation of function).

    They are growing a child in a corpse. That’s from a horror story or sounds like the origins of the Anti-Christ. Lovecraftian morals, not Christian.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 28 Thumb down 0

  16. CSK says:

    The McMath case has gone from the grotesque to the obscene. The lawyer has just announced that since the child has been given a tracheotomy and been fitted with a g-tube, that unnamed (of course) “doctors” are “optimistic” about her condition and that she’s “improving.” What? She’s somewhat less dead?

    In the Munoz case, if the woman’s brain stem is dead, I can’t see how the fetus is receiving any sustenance, even if the woman’s blood is being artificially circulated.

    It’s the complete cessation of brain stem function that distinguishes between death and a PVS or coma.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  17. rudderpedals says:

    If NYC is a Nanny State then Texas is surely the Evil Nanny State.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  18. Ron Beasley says:

    @Scott: I hadn’t thought of that!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. Abdul says:

    Not so bad. Its the same law that has kept Dick Cheney alive long after he was proven brain dead.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  20. Heisenberg says:

    The Republicans have found their ideal woman: unable to think, unable to speak, completely dependent and serving no purpose other than to be an incubator for children.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 43 Thumb down 2

  21. Abdul says:

    But honestly, I am from Texas and this case is just plain sick. The belief that people have that force the laws that allow macabre spectacles like this to go on is sick. I honestly feel they don’t deserve science.

    The worst part is that the hospital is only doing daily fetal check. I’m not sure they are delivering any prenatal vitamins, sonograms, etc. I think the hospital is using this as a case they can use to sway law changes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  22. C. Clavin says:

    I think this nicely wraps up the awe-inspiring hypocrisy of the Republican party.
    If there is another, more egregious, example of these small Government enthusiasts using Government to stick their noses into the liberty of others I’d like to see it.
    I seriously cannot see how an intelligent human being can vote for today’s Republicans.

    And this guy…Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life…should be summarily executed for impersonating a human being.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 1

  23. KM says:

    @Stonetools:

    What’s interesting here is that the state of Texas will spend millions to keep alive a fetus that may never be viable.

    Oh they’ll expect reimbursement, count on that. This poor family is going to get slapped with the mother of all medical bills against their will. Unless the hospital specifically said that they will not pass along the expenses to the family and their insurance, the billing will continue as normal.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 0

  24. grumpy realist says:

    The next step, of course, is to assume that every brain-dead female has the possibility of being pregnant, thus requiring administering a pregnancy test to a corpse…..

    And the so-called “pro-life” people call this being respectful of life?! It’s certainly not very respectful of a woman’s corpse.

    Hey, we can go even further! Keep those brain-dead bitches hooked up to the life-support systems forever and we can use them as non-sentinent incubators to grow (white) babies for all those infertile couples clamouring for children!

    (Ugh….I think I just squicked myself out a bit.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  25. PD Shaw says:

    “There does not appear that there is any way under Texas law that a person drafting a Living Will can void this provision of the law.

    I agree, but that does not appear to be true of Medical Powers of Attorneys:

    A person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient.

    This Subchapter = Subchapter B (Advance Directives/Living Wills)
    Subchapter D = Medical Powers of Attorney

    The designated agent of a power of attorney can authorize withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment, but I don’t see any restriction due to pregnancy. Maybe I’m missing something, but I can see not wanting to make this particular decision in advance without knowing all of the circumstances. Around here, people usually complete both a Living Will and a POA.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  26. Tony W says:

    And this is what you get when you mix religion and politics. Enough already – disgusting.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  27. PD Shaw says:

    According to this Daily Kos rundown from 2005, most states are similar to Texas, including California.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  28. Blue Galangal says:

    @grumpy realist: You might have squicked yourself; I must admit I had much the same thought and squicked my own self when I first heard of this case. It really does seem like that’s all they want, an incubator, why not keep her “alive” to keep making babies?

    It’s disgusting is what it is. Esp. given that she went to the trouble to have a living will – not many people her age even do that, so she clearly was thinking ahead, for Pete’s sake.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  29. al-Ameda says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Who is paying to keep this corpse on life-support so that a fetus…who was without oxygen for 16 minutes…can be still-born?

    Because I doubt that the family of the child is bearing this cost, I imagine that the cost is passed on to taxpayers, the insured, or both.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  30. Pinky says:

    I don’t have any problem with the state intervening to save a life. If this happened to a family member, I’d be ok with it.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 24

  31. Vast Variety says:

    Am I a horrible person because the only thing going through my head after reading this is the Monty Python Dead Parrot sketch?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  32. grumpy realist says:

    @Pinky: Would you be so eager to have the state step in if the entire costs were to be paid by you?

    This is an abysmal high expense shunted off on the taxpayers of Texas to satisfy the tender feelings of the forced-pregnancy brigade. If it’s all that important for them, why don’t they shoulder the entire cost themselves?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  33. rudderpedals says:

    I think living wills and DPOAs generally die with the principal.

    This is more like a prolonged, state-forced organ donation. Just like the axlotl tank per Scott, also.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  34. Boyd says:

    First, I believe this is a bad situation all the way around. The complete absence of exceptions to this law seems to me to be…well, wrong. At any rate, Mrs Muñoz is effectively dead, and if the claims I read here are accurate, her baby is or will be soon, too. Sad, very sad.

    I wanted to respond particularly to something Scott said, which is tangential to this case, but is something that interests me generally:

    I find a deep contradiction in those who are deeply religious and believe in God’s will but are willing to subvert that will.

    I normally only pull out this quote from Galileo Galilei to respond to fellow Christians who believe that spiritual faith and Science are at odds with each other:

    I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.

    Using the gifts God gave us isn’t inherently “subverting [His] will.”

    And just to leave no doubt, I regard myself as “deeply religious and believe in God’s will,” and yield to no one on those points.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  35. Pinky says:

    @Boyd: There are a lot more non-Christians than Christians who believe that faith and science are contradictory.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 10

  36. jd says:

    With apologies to The Princess Bride: : “Whoo-hoo-hoo, look who knows so much. It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  37. Scott says:

    @Boyd: I think I am in the same camp as you are. However, the question is, is there a limit on how far Man should use his gifts? Isn’t the idea of a Living Will and Advance Medical Directives an act of faith in the eternal life that I profess to on a weekly basis?

    I wasn’t really trying to be snarky but I can see how it reads that way.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  38. KM says:

    I find a deep contradiction in those who are deeply religious and believe in God’s will but are willing to subvert that will.

    Sometimes, God says No. Sometimes, you pray and pray and don’t get the answer you want. If you are truly submissive to God’s will the way your religion teaches, you will accept the Divine Refusal as the correct response and learn to live with it. It takes just as much faith to accept God doesn’t intent to grant your wishes as it takes to believe he will heal you.

    God doesn’t need you to keep a body on a ventilator to do anything miraculous – that’s a human recognizing that you can piss in one hand and wish for rain in the other with only one getting wet.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  39. beth says:

    @Scott: I guess what bothers me is that I don’t think of this as saving a life, I see it as growing a life. The fetus was not a viable life when Mrs. Munoz died and I can’t see keeping her body as an incubator as anything but creepy. If we can do this, then why not keep brain dead people alive for their organs against their will? That would save lives too. I’m not sure we’re always justified in using the science available to us, however it was given to us.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  40. dennis says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I was going to go on a rant about what an outrage this is, relegating the value of a woman to baby carrier, but grumpy said it better than I would have.

    This from the party of “small government”?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  41. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Obscene …

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  42. Mikey says:

    @beth:

    The fetus was not a viable life when Mrs. Munoz died and I can’t see keeping her body as an incubator as anything but creepy.

    This, indeed.

    At this point Mrs. Munoz is being used as a means to an end, rather than being treated as an end in herself. This is something to which she did not consent in life and which should not be done to anyone in any circumstance.

    If Texas law requires this, then in the words of Dickens, “the law is a ass–a idiot:”…and by extension, so are those who enacted it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  43. michael reynolds says:

    @Boyd:

    It points to the insecurity of many believers. They’re secretly afraid that humans who use their intellectual faculties will no longer be religious, or worse that they will disprove the existence of God.

    They are attributing to God their own insecurities. If there is a God he’s surely feeling rather more secure and is quite unafraid of human science.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  44. DrDaveT says:

    I do hope, though, that whoever fixes this law keeps in mind the potential flip-side.

    Should a Living Will (or similar document) be able to specify what should happen if the drafter becomes brain-dead while carrying a not-yet-viable fetus? I think we all agree that the deceased mother-to-be should have been allowed to choose in advance to require the abortion in that case. Do we agree that she should equally have been allowed to choose in advance to forbid it?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  45. Pinky says:

    @beth:

    If we can do this, then why not keep brain dead people alive for their organs against their will? That would save lives too.

    If I become brain-dead, and it’d save someone’s life or allow a baby to come to term, then by all means hook my body up to a respirator and chop me up slowly. Wouldn’t you consent to it?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  46. Boyd says:

    @michael reynolds:

    If there is a God he’s surely feeling rather more secure and is quite unafraid of human science.

    My point exactly. Well, except for the “if” part. I think some believers make God too small, because He’s not bound by Science; He created it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  47. Facts Hurt says:

    THis law was passed in 1989 when democrats had both houses in Texas.

    The more you know.

    source:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seventy-first_Texas_Legislature

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

  48. Organ Facts says:

    “Brain death” is not true death. Many patients diagnosed by neurologists as “brain dead” have later revived. Often they were targeted for organ harvesting, but spontaneously revived in the nick of time, just before they were operated on.
    For example: Zach Dunlap http://www.organfacts.net/notdead/zach-dunlap/
    and Sam Schmid http://www.organfacts.net/notdead/sam-schmid/
    and Steven Thorpe http://www.organfacts.net/notdead/steven-thorpe/

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 8

  49. KM says:

    @Organ Facts”

    “Brain death” is not true death.

    BULLSHIT.

    You do realize without your brain, your body stops working automatically right? It controls everything. Without it, you are dead. We can replace every other organ on the body but the brain via surgery or medical device. Why is that? Hearts can be run by machines, lungs substituted and replaced while life goes on. Not your brain. Brain cells don’t grow back – once they are gone, they’re gone.

    Your mind is who you are. Without it, you are a shell – a bag of meat and bone. Just because electricity can make a heart jump, doesn’t mean there’s life. Just because air pressure can inflate lungs doesn’t mean there’s breath. Science can only mimic life, not recreate it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 3

  50. Grewgills says:

    @Pinky:
    If that was the choice you and your family made that is fine. How would you feel if that choice were made for you and it was your wife who you were forced to watch and pay for day after day, week after week?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  51. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Wow, such anger that a fetus wasn’t killed. I’m sure that, should the fetus come to term and survive, once it reaches mental maturity it will realize the horrific fact that it was allowed to live will overwhelm it and it will retroactively abort itself.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 4 Thumb down 17

  52. KM says:

    @Jenos:

    once it reaches mental maturity it will realize the horrific fact

    that it was incubated in a CORPSE?!

    Yeah…… I’m pretty sure that’s the kind of thing that leads to madness and “retroactively aborting” the people that committed the atrocity with extreme prejudice.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  53. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    I’m sure that, should the fetus come to term and survive, once it reaches mental maturity it will realize the horrific fact that it was allowed to live will overwhelm it and it will retroactively abort itself.

    Or, more likely, the fetus would be kept alive in a vegetative state by the State of Texas.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  54. Pinky says:

    @Grewgills: I can’t answer that. I can’t picture making the decision to allow my unborn child to die, so I can’t picture what it would be like to be prevented from being able to let it die.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 4

  55. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    In a common-sense world, the law would say that if the fetus is pre-viable, the choice would be up to the husband, as next of kin. If the fetus was viable, then it’s a little stickier — maybe an induced delivery, with the father’s choice being to keep or give up the baby.

    But the Texas Democrats who wrote this bill didn’t take into account such bizarre circumstances as this one.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 8

  56. dennis says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Of course, DrDaveT. We call it having the choice and ability to make decisions for your own person.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  57. Grewgills says:

    @Pinky:
    I was responding to your organ harvesting scenario. Your loved one, despite her wishes to the contrary, being kept alive on machines so that her organs could be harvested.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  58. Franklin says:

    @Boyd: Good quote from Galileo, I hadn’t heard it before. I’ve said something similar in the past – “God gave us a brain, presumably to use it.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  59. Concience says:

    @C. Clavin: @grumpy realist: Guess there is no need for hospitals at all. After all, any help to prolong life can be perceived as interference with life processes. I wholeheartedly wish and hope you have no medical interfenence for you and yours to prolong your or your loved ones lives.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  60. James Pearce says:

    As tragic as this story is, it’s somewhat annoying for everyone to be assuming facts not in evidence. From the linked story:

    Mr. and Mrs. Machado said the hospital had made it clear to them that their daughter was brain-dead, but hospital officials have declined to comment on Mrs. Munoz’s care and condition, creating uncertainty over whether the hospital has formally declared her brain-dead.

    and

    Ms. Labbe said that neither she nor the doctors could answer questions about Mrs. Munoz’s condition because her husband had not signed the paperwork allowing them to speak to the news media about his wife’s care.

    So while it appears that the hospital is keeping a brain-dead woman alive against her family’s wishes, it hasn’t even yet been established that this woman is indeed brain-dead.

    I can understand the urge to believe the husband but there’s no reason to trust his medical expertise. And I can understand the urge to look askance at the Texas establishment, but there’s no reason –aside from general suspicion– to think that John Peter Smith Hospital is “in on it.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  61. Concience says:

    @KM: Sicence didn’t create this life. But human ingenuity can allow it to be forthcomming. A MIND IS A HORRIBLE THING TO WASTE. Don’t you watch TV. They are your dividend.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  62. Boyd says:

    @Concience: I don’t want to be rude or anything, but I have to ask…is that even English? I have no idea what you’re trying to say.

    All your base are belong to us.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  63. Concience says:

    There is no reason to believe that John Peter Smith Hospital is the authority on life. IS there a Human authority on “LIFE”? The MEDICAL establishment needs to enact a new oath, the one they have has WOOD ROT.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  64. Boyd says:

    Thanks, Concience, I’m glad you cleared that up.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  65. Concience says:

    @Boyd: Yeah spelling was the point I was going for. Thats the point of this disscussion.. Spelling.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  66. Concience says:

    @Heisenberg: Tares for breakfast. Thanks for the insight.\

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  67. James Pearce says:

    @Concience: Sorry, man, but I hope you realize that even if you hone your act to the point where it actually works, there will still be no jobs waiting for you on Vaudeville.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  68. Concience says:

    @KM: You don’t have a clue what your talking about. I’ve survived 3 brain dead sentences, without brain damage. Doctors are NOT the last word. If my family gave up I wouldn’t have lived to have 4 more children and probably controlled at least one flight you or yours flew on. As well as many presidential flights!!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  69. Concience says:

    @James Pearce: If I indeed wanted that for breakfast thats where I’d head. I prefer humble pie. It’s eggs with tares and milk of kindness.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  70. Concience says:

    @James Pearce:I assume from your reply that this is some sort of an “internet advancement” for you. This is about the ideology of the advancement of life and whether or not human intervention should be warranted to insure or prolong ANYONES life. Wasn’t there a word for that in 1942?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  71. James Pearce says:

    @Concience:

    I assume from your reply that this is some sort of an “internet advancement” for you.

    Well, you know what they say about “assume…..”

    Let me clear it up: I’m a pro-choice atheist liberal. I’m naturally inclined to be on the Munoz family’s side on this, but I’m also naturally inclined not to believe things without proof. It should go without saying that I regard “They told me she was brain dead” to be insufficient proof.

    After all, the hospital is not acting as if she were brain dead. Not only are they keeping her on life support, but they’re also respecting patient confidentiality by not speaking to the media without the husband’s permission.

    What are the chances that the brain dead diagnosis did not occur or was misunderstood by Mr. Munoz? With the information we have now, it’s a possibility that cannot be dismissed out of hand.

    That’s why I said, way up in my first comment, that there’s more to this story. And I’m not going to rush to judgement without getting the full monty.

    Oh, and my vaudeville comment was in regards to your not-so-humorous and inscrutable quips. As Boyd says, “I have no idea what you’re trying to say.”

    I mean….I saw a homeless guy on the bus who used to say things like:

    “Don’t you watch TV. They are your dividend.”

    He was talking to a guy who wasn’t there and experiencing a reality much different from the one I was experiencing two seats away.

    You don’t seem schizophrenic, so I assumed you were working on a comedy routine of some sort. Well, you know what they say about “assume…..”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  72. cleverboots says:

    @C. Clavin: Remember, you are dealing with Texas, home of the Bush family and Rick Perry.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  73. TarianinMO says:

    And Wendy Davis.

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  74. KM says:

    @James Pearce:
    I must respectfully disagree here – I think you’re using the golden mean fallacy in an attempt to be reasonable but it’s just not justified in this case.

    I can understand the urge to believe the husband but there’s no reason to trust his medical expertise.

    True enough. He could be totally ignorant, he could be the most well-read person on the planet regarding this subject. We don’t know – just Iike we don’t know your expertise and have no reason to trust it either. However, as her husband and next of kin, his say must be respected in this case. He is the second Final Say in the matter – Mrs Munoz should have been the First!

    After all, the hospital is not acting as if she were brain dead. Not only are they keeping her on life support, but they’re also respecting patient confidentiality by not speaking to the media without the husband’s permission.

    So because they’re quiet he’s lying?

    The hospital where Jahi McMath did the same thing – obeying HIPAA while taking unfair hits in the media and six separate doctors verified that diagnosis. The machines were kept on as well. The hospital is acting in its own interests and you can’t infer diagnosis from that. Life support is there because they’re trying to grow a fetus – their stated purpose!

    The hospital in Jahi’s case was trying to turn off the machines and so explained the brain-dead diagnosis to a public that was convinced they were trying to kill a girl as justification and vindication. This hospital could very well be not commenting due to the fact that the public views them as doing something ghoulish and they don’t want admit the diagnosis as they can’t vindicate their actions. Need I remind you of the hospital in Ireland that slavish followed a ghoulish law and let a woman die? JPSH is slavishly following a law that has many in the medical profession going WTF.

    And I can understand the urge to look askance at the Texas establishment, but there’s no reason –aside from general suspicion– to think that John Peter Smith Hospital is “in on it.”

    The bottom line is if Mrs Munoz had indicated that this was against her wishes in any way, then the hospital is in the wrong. Patients rights and wishes, stated while alive and aware, mean something. She didn’t want this. She’s not going to get better even if she’s in PVS or one of the other “brain dead” states the public confuses. Who is the State to disregard a patient’s wishes at whim? This is a very very dangerous road to go down and coming up with quibbling “well maybes” doesn’t change the simple fact that she said No and the State said Yes.

    This isn’t running out the clock on a late-term pregnancy, buying time for a viable child to be born. She was 14 weeks and the bare minimum viability we can do at this point is 24! You are looking at least 2.5 more months to get to the 6 month mark (24 weeks). 2.5 months or longer on artificial support, for the sole purpose of being an incubator.

    Hospitals are not perfect as they are run by imperfect human beings with agendas of their own. While I can’t know what goes on in their hearts and minds, their actions are quite clear – keeping a body warm against its original occupants (and families wishes) for a potential that may never be. They’ve chosen to “pro-life” and are invoking the law to do so.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  75. KM says:

    Here’s a good question that will help clarify things – will they let her be moved? If the funds were gathered to move Mrs Munoz to a state without these laws and let nature take its course as the family wishes, will JPSH allow it or fight back? If it’s just the law binding their hands, they will have no problems with the transfer. If not, it shows there really is an agenda at play.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  76. Pinky says:

    @Grewgills:

    I was responding to your organ harvesting scenario. Your loved one, despite her wishes to the contrary, being kept alive on machines so that her organs could be harvested.

    Gotcha. I understand what you’re asking now. If my loved one were brain-dead, and her body could be harvested, then sure, I’m fine with that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  77. David in KC says:

    @Pinky: You’d be ok with that if it was going to take 10 weeks?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  78. KM says:

    @Pinky:

    despite her wishes to the contrary, being kept alive

    I’m fine with that.

    Does your loved one know you intend to disregard their express wishes and do whatever you want in terms of their medical care and decision making? Not to be rude, but that’s incredibly selfish and unethical. You may feel it’s the right thing to do but you’re betraying a trust placed on you to obey their directives. Doesn’t that factor into your choice in any way?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  79. Vast Variety says:

    I will tell you that if I’m brain dead and anyone tries to keep my body alive against my wishes for any reason I’m going to come back and haunt them like the worst Freddy Kruger movie plot line you can think of.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  80. Franklin says:

    @Concience:

    I’ve survived 3 brain dead sentences, without brain damage.

    I’m not sure about that last part …

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  81. cleverboots says:

    @TarianinMO: Wendy Davis is great but, unfortunately,
    there are still a lot of Bush/Perry types-Conservative Republicans. Anti women’s reproductive rights and not too bright.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  82. Grewgills says:

    @Pinky:
    Regardless of her wishes? Even if she had a living will that specifically stated that she did not want extraordinary measures to keep her body alive?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  83. Pinky says:

    @KM: I don’t think that’s what was asked (although I’ve been wrong before on this thread). It’s not whether I would disregard a loved one’s desires, but whether I would accept the law disregarding a loved one’s desires. And in this case, as the loved one has passed away, I would understand. It’d still be creepy, of course. I’d probably have nightmares all ten weeks. But if it saves a life or allows a child to come to term, I’d understand.

    This conversation is leading me to wonder if organ donation should be voluntary or not. I’ve never thought about it in those terms, but it seems to be where I’m heading with this line of thought. I’ll have to think about that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  84. PD Shaw says:

    As I see it, she did express her intent. She signed a document that specifically states that her desire to terminate her life will have no force and effect if pregnant. She signed her name to this statement: “I understand that under Texas law this directive has no effect if I have been diagnosed as pregnant.”

    If she wanted broader authority to make healthcare decisions in the event she was incapacitated, she could have prepared a healthcare power of attorney.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  85. Castle2410 says:

    So since Texas is forcing this woman to be on life support machines Texas will also be footing the bill for all medical costs right? The 5 and a half months stay in the hospital in I.C.U., the ultrasounds, the birth, how about day care and school cost, will Texas cover those as well?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  86. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    You may feel it’s the right thing to do but you’re betraying a trust placed on you to obey their directives. Doesn’t that factor into your choice in any way?

    In this case not at all. The point of a living will is to prevent extreme measures to be taken that cause tremendous discomfort and suffering to the patient.

    In this case the patient is dead and none of these measures will inhibit her in the slightest, so the intention of the living will is honoured.

    While the impact on the relatives may be unpleasant I rate their discomfort lower than the life of an innocent. In the end it’s no more their body than the child’s.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  87. KM says:

    @Ebenezer_Arvigenius:

    In this case the patient is dead

    Ok, this is getting disgusting and downright frustrating…..

    You admit she’s dead.
    You admit you don’t care about her wishes, recorded in a legally binding document.
    You admit you’re fine with growing a fetus in a dead body just because you feel its “moral”.
    You admit you’re fine with the government usurping you medical wishes and doing whatever they damn well please with your physical form because of “morals”.
    You admit because you feel an “innocent” is at stake, screw the family and their rights.
    You admit to being willing to play God after God already told you No. The fetus would have died with the mother if “extreme measures” weren’t and continue to be taken.
    You admit that its OK to use this woman as nothing more then a breeding machine because you think its “moral”.

    MRS MUNOZ’S AN INNOCENT TOO! SHE DIDN’T ASK FOR THIS AND DOESN’T DESERVE TO BE TREATED LIKE THIS!!

    intention of the living will is honoured.

    And yet extreme measures are being taken at this very second.

    Life support is extreme measures. The intention was “don’t do it, I don’t want it’. You’re twisting it to meet your own ends, playing sophistry to suit your agenda. You’re not honoring anything if you’re doing what you were told not to do in the first place!! Are they following the actual order or not – not their interpretation of her motive?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  88. KM says:

    @PD Shaw”

    she could have prepared a healthcare power of attorney.

    I don’t that that would have helped here. The law seems to be explicitly designed to render all these things moot. The intentions was to “save an innocent”.

    That’s what’s so damn frustrating about all this. Even if you do what you are supposed to do – fill out the right forms, do the right legal maneuvers, think ahead and plan for your directives to be done, respect the rule of law, it gets wiped out by an overzealous government on a whim.

    What is the point of any of this if the State can just say “Whatever”? Why bother to have wills or DNRs if they can be rendered invalid like that? Doesn’t anyone realize how very bad this is for your rights as a person and a citizen?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  89. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    Well legally this is highly questionable but morally I have no problem with it.

    MRS MUNOZ’S AN INNOCENT TOO! SHE DIDN’T ASK FOR THIS AND DOESN’T DESERVE TO BE TREATED LIKE THIS!!

    No need to hyperventilate. As I said. Ms. Munroz is DEAD. She is not treated in any way because she’s no longer around. We’re talking about her physical remains. While considering them special is pretty traditional, it’s also pretty irrational.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  90. PD Shaw says:

    @KM: I’ve read the law, and at 12:33 yesterday I quoted the provision that states that pregnancies only impact living wills not medical powers of attorney.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  91. Pinky says:

    KM – I get why this is frustrating. Ebeneezer is describing this heartlessly. It’s got to be unbelievably difficult to be in the position that her family is in, and Eb is not going to win anyone over to his side writing the way he is.

    But – if you recognize that the fetus is an entity with brainwaves, a heartbeat, and its own 100% human genetic code, then you’ve got to have some qualms about this. It reminds me of the pharaohs who would have their retinue buried with them, alive. What kind of a person would say that if I’m going to die, I want to take my child with me? And I know, you may not think of a non-viable fetus as a child, but if the doctors turn off that machine, human brain waves are going to cease in that creature who has half of his mother’s and half of his father’s genetic code.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  92. Mikey says:

    @Pinky:

    if you recognize that the fetus is an entity with brainwaves,

    The fetus was deprived of oxygen as long as Mrs. Munoz was, and if that oxygen deprivation rendered her brain dead, why should we assume the same didn’t happen to the fetus?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  93. Boyd says:

    So, nobody at the hospital has bothered to check for a fetal heartbeat over the past 10 weeks?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  94. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    There is heartbeat but severe mental retardation is likely.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  95. PD Shaw says:

    @Ebenezer_Arvigenius: In that case, the result here would probably be the same in Illinois: If it is possible that the fetus could develop to the point of “live birth,” life sustaining treatment must be continued. (Not a restriction found in the state power of attorney laws, however)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  96. la guera says:

    This is sick and unethical. They are not only violating the wishes of the patient to not be kept alive artificially when she is already “dead”, they are in essence forcing a family to be left with the decision to raise a child that may not ever have any quality of life if the child even make it. This is horrible and unfair to this family.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  97. grumpy realist says:

    @Pinky: Even if she had said before she died that she DID NOT want to be treated that way?

    What we’re getting squicked about is the State/hospital stepping in and going against the expressed wishes of a patient.

    If I have a DNR directive in a living will, there’s no little asterisk added saying “unless I’m pregnant, of course.”

    Also, considering the possibilities of a fertile woman being in the very early stages of pregnancy, why doesn’t this statute mean that all women who become brain-dead need to be tested for pregnancy? (And, if found pregnant, kept hooked up to machines for the next 7 or 8 months or however long is needed?)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  98. DeeStry RN says:

    @James Pearce:
    I tried to like this but I hit the wrong button. This is a very sensitive issue and people are very quick to have an opinion. Doesn’t mean one side is right and one side is wrong, but I agree that we probably don’t know all the facts. If the parents are truly outraged, there must be a reason they are not seeking legal council.

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  99. Catie says:

    First of all it’s a human being. Life starts at conception. With all the technology they can’t know if the baby is okay? If theirs even a chance that the baby can grow inside her and be healthy then yes let the baby live. Prayer changes allot of things. I pray that God will intervene and the naysayers will see a true miracle. I wonder if this precious mother could know that by keeping her alive that their was chance her baby could live and be healthy, what would she say….Every life is precious…everyone..noone wants to go against the mothers wishes but she was carrying life and life always matters

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  100. Angel says:

    Title: Death thus Life.

    After 3 months a fetus is a fully formed baby who has a right to life except in cases where the mother’s life is in jeopardy. She is brain dead but not in any pain or hazard. Nature uses the male and female in the conception of life while the mother carries the physical aspect to term. Remember the fathers are also carrying the baby emotionally and financially and other in some cases. Therefore a mother is not totally responsible for conception or the birth of a baby. If the mother is brain dead she has no say in the matter despite her wishes. The onus is on the rest of the Universe who can give a miracle and the living people. If the mother is brain-dead or even dying why should the baby not live; since its not affecting or harming her in any way? Unless there is more surrounding how she got pregnant. It’s interesting to note that the female body is used as a host during pregnancy. Many parents can confirm that children continue to leech off of them longer after they have reached young adults, therefore making them seems as vampires who suck the life out of parents and society by extension. A mother is a host whether brain dead or alive. It’s the way of nature.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  101. Angel says:

    Isn’t this someone’s unborn-grand baby? Didn’t the mother want her baby before she was deemed brain dead? Would she not want her baby to live? Does the unborn baby have no right to life because she/he is dependent on another human being’s organs to survive? Unless there is more surrounding how she got pregnant.

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