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Texas Bars Husband from Having Pregnant Wife Removed from Life Support

December 21, 2013

In 1988, Tom Delay made the painful decision to have his father removed from life support after he was severely injured in a tragic accident. Yet in 2005, then House Majority Leader Tom Delay led the massive federal intervention to prevent Michael Schiavo from choosing the same act of mercy for his wife, Terri Schiavo. After every court ruled in Michael Schiavo's favor, Delay warned the judges:

"The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior, but not today. Today we grieve, we pray, and we hope to God this fate never befalls another."

Sadly, 25 years after the Delay family tragedy, it has befallen another in the Lone Star State. And this time, Texas law is preventing the husband and parents of the comatose Marlise Munoz from honoring her wishes because she is pregnant.

As Sarah Weir reported:

On Nov. 26, Erick Munoz woke to the sound of his year-old son crying and found his 14-weeks-pregnant wife, Marlise, lying on the kitchen floor, blue in the face and without a pulse. A firefighter and paramedic, Munoz called 911 and performed CPR, to no avail. When they arrived at the John Peter Smith Hospital (JPS) in Fort Worth, Texas, he thought he would have to make an agonizing decision: refuse life support even though that meant losing both his wife and his future child. Munoz said in a WFAA News report that four years ago, when Marlise's brother was killed in an accident, she told him that she would never want to be on life support -- something they had discussed many times since.

Marlise's parents support their son-in-law's plea to have his unresponsive wife removed from a ventilator:

She absolutely DID NOT EVER want to be connected to Life Support," her mother, Lynne Machado, wrote on WFAA's Facebook page. "This issue is not about Pro Choice/Pro Life. Our intent is purely one of education about how this [statute] null and voids any woman's DNR [if she is] pregnant.

You read that right. Texas and 11 other states have enacted laws which automatically invalidate pregnant women's advance directives to refrain from using extraordinary measures to keep them alive. Other states have less restrictive measures. But as WFAA reported, the Lone Star State's is particularly draconian:

Marlise was taken to the emergency room at JPS in the early morning of Nov. 26. Later in the day, the family was informed by doctors that they would provide any life-saving measures because she was pregnant. The family was told the hospital was taking that measure because of state law in Texas' Health and Safety Code.
Section 166.049 Pregnant Patients. A person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient," the code reads.
Even more, in a health directive form found under the Health and Safety Code, it reads, "I understand under Texas law this directive has no effect if I have been diagnosed as pregnant."

Heartbroken, Erick Munoz is unable to fulfill his wife's wishes. She is, he laments, "simply a shell." Or more accurately, in the eyes of the state of Texas, a vessel, one which must be preserved as long as necessary to deliver what may well be a severely stricken or still born child.
Regardless, unlike the experience of the Delay clan a generation ago, the torment continues for Marlise's family. Doctors have said they may have to take the fetus to term.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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