I needed something to get me out of the no posting doldrums, and this story is it.!
For those who may have missed it in the news, a Texas woman suffered a pulmonary embolism and collapsed at home, and was subsequently was declared brain dead at the hospital. During her treatment it was discovered she was 20 weeks pregnant. Her doctors on behalf of the hospital refused to withdraw life support citing the Texas Advanced Directives Act of 1999.
It provides a paradigm for families make decisions about end-of-life care, allowing doctors to discontinue treatment considered medically futile. But it contains the caveat that “a person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment … from a pregnant patient.”
Twelve states have laws automatically invalidating a woman’s “living will” if she is pregnant and force her to receive life-sustaining treatment until she gives birth. Such laws mean “terminally ill women will be forced to merely exist as human incubators.”
What happens this Friday’s emergency hearing is the latest challenge from right to lifers to find a back door repeal of a woman’s right to reproductive freedom. Its goal is to get the Supreme court to declare that life begins at conception. Furthermore the right of the unborn fetus supercedes the needs and rights of the mother even when her life is at risk.
All this might be considered “worthwhile” if the end result is a normal healthy baby being born. Tragically, a fetus rarely can be successfully brought to term in a dead woman. CNN is currently reporting that the fetus’s limbs are severely deformed and it suffers from hydrocephalus. If the baby survives to birth it would be living life in horrendous medical conditions that the family would be responsible for emotionally and financially all which could have been avoided if the hospital had honored the family’s wishes in regard to end of life procedures.
How do you feel about this? Will women be required to be tested for pregnancy every hospital visit and counselled as to the potential actions should they die as a result of an operation or medical procedure? This could spiral into the land of unintended consequence quickly.
[I’ll be posting updates to this as the story develops]
1/24/14 Minor Update:
CNN Reports today- “For the first time, John Peter Smith Hospital acknowledges that Marlise Munoz, who is being kept on a respirator under Texas law, has been brain dead since November 28 and that the “fetus gestating inside Mrs. Munoz is not viable,” according to court documents released before a Friday hearing.”
Well, holy crap. I’m not going to opine about the morality of this whole situation yet, I’ll wait until the court renders a decision. Did I mention holy crap? Lets do some maths. Sixty days at twenty thousand dollars a day for 24 hour medical care in a hospital in the fine state of Texas. [That’s a conservative estimate as anyone who has spent any time in a hospital can tell you.] That comes to a million two. Then there’s legal expenses on top of that. Under the best scenario, insurance would cover 70-80 percent. But wait, there’s more! If the court rules in the family’s favor, the insurance could claim her hospitalization wasn’t a legitimate expense and deny coverage.
All for a fetus the hospital admits in court ISN’T VIABLE. Holy crap.
[Stay tuned for further updates]
1/24/14 3:45 PM (CNN) — “A Texas judge ordered a hospital on Friday to remove a pregnant and brain-dead woman from respirators and ventilators by 5 p.m. Monday.”
The Hospital can appeal……
[Soon the real story can begin]
1/24/14 5:15 PM Bazinga! CBS reports court orders hospital to discontinue artificial support to Ms Munoz’s corpse by 5PM on Monday. I predict the hospital will appeal.
1/27/14 Wee Hours The hospital has discontinued its machinery. As I suspected, the medical chicanery will continue vis-a-vis billing procedures. “When appropriate, the finance department will pursue its customary process for identifying payers and reimbursement,” hospital spokeswoman J.R. Labbe said by email.”
Henry Rex Greene of PuffHo fame put it much more succinctly than I, and I quote:
“The hospital was way out of line, but first a clarification. Brain dead is dead. A cadaver is not on “life support,” she is being involuntarily perfused for the alleged interests of her uterine contents. This is emblematic of the Texas atitude towards women. In ethics and the law she or her proxy have total autonomy over her disposition. This was akin to forcing the family to perfuse her against her wishes to harvest her organs.
In medical ethics autonomy is dispositive. Patients may refuse life saving interventions for whatever reason they wish. (This wasn’t life saving; she was dead). To turn a corpse into an incubator typifies right wing dehumanization of women. No matter the hospital’s disingenuous interpretation of Texas law, what the hospital did was unethical, and it isn’t just the usual pointless argument; it’s “pro-life” on steroids. No logic justifies over-ruling a person’s wishes in the interest of a body part.
Fetuses have no moral identity separate from the mother who carries them. No doubt they represent a potential person, but their identity cannot be separate from the mother. They have no more standing than a fingernail. Finally, this case typifies the arrogance of pro-lifers. They are pro-birth but care not an iota for an infant once born. No food stamps; no SCHIP. No Medicaid. No public schools. It is unconscionable to reduce women to baby delivery systems while granting civil rights to the unborn.”