Marlise Muñoz, the Fort Worth area pregnant woman whose husband has been fighting to have her removed from life support, was taken off life-sustaining machines after a Texas judge ordered her doctors to comply with her husband’s wishes. We blogged about this case previously, and as it came to gain national prominence, it has served as a national reminder about the importance of estate and incapacity planning.
Court Hears Evidence About Brain-Dead Woman
The court order brought an end to the legal struggle that began several months ago after Eric Munoz found his wife unconscious on the floor of their home. Marlise Munoz had suffered a pulmonary embolism. Her condition left her brain-dead and had also harmed her fetus. The court found that because Marlise was brain-dead and that her fetus was no longer viable, the hospital should remove her from life support systems as her husband had originally requested.
When the saga began, the hospital had refused to honor Eric Munoz’s demand because of the dictates of Texas law. The Texas advance directive law allows all capable adults to create living wills and medical directives that address what would happen to them in the event of incapacitation. Marlise Munoz did not have such a directive, but her husband did have the rights to make medical decisions on her behalf. The couple had discussed what they would want to happen if they were brain-dead, and Eric says his wife was very clear about her wishes.
However, the Texas law that allows for advance directives also states very clearly that doctors cannot remove life-sustaining treatment from a pregnant woman. It’s because of this prohibition that Marlise Munoz’s physicians refused to comply with her husband’s wishes, and why Eric Munoz had to take them to court.
State Advance Directive Requirements
Even if Marlise Munoz had created an advance directive, the case would have likely followed the same path because of the Texas law. Like Texas, California’s law on advance directives also imposes a similar restriction. Had the Munoz case occurred in California, it’s very possible that a similar chain of events would have taken place.
Yet regardless of prohibitions against doctors allowing pregnant women to be taken off life-sustaining treatment even in the face of an advance directive stating that is their wish, this case, along with that of Jahi McMath, have once again highlighted the need for everyone to create medical directives. At the very least, a properly create advance medical directive allows your family to know exactly what your wishes are. This way, conflicts between family members about honoring your wishes will be much less likely to occur or result in court battles.
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