A sad case

January 18th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

With a ventilator slowly inflating her lungs and forcing oxygen into a bloodstream moved through her body by an artificial heartbeat, Marlise Munoz is unaware that she has become the focus of yet another American debate over what it is to live and die, and over .

Marlise, a paramedic, was 33 years old and 14 weeks pregnant when she collapsed in November, probably from a pulmonary embolism, a fatal blood clot in a lung.

Her husband Erick, a firefighter, found her slumped on the kitchen floor in the middle of the night and called for help even as he fought to resuscitate her.

At the John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, doctors used drugs and electric shocks to restart her heart. They were too late. Doctors discovered that though machines were able to artificially maintain some of the mechanical processes of her body, Marlise’s brain was silent. She was dead, clinically and legally.

The family gathered by her bedside in the hospital’s three-storey intensive care unit and prepared to farewell her. They were stunned when doctors refused to turn off the ventilator.

Having detected a foetal heartbeat hospital authorities said they were bound by a Texas law that prohibits doctors from withholding “life-sustaining treatment” from a pregnant woman.

Erick protested. He and Marlise had lived their professional lives close to life and death and had discussed circumstances like these. Marlise did not want such artificial medical intervention. Marlise’s extended family and Erick’s colleagues agreed.

Marlise’s mother, Lynne Machado, 60, told The New York Times: “It’s about a matter of our daughter’s wishes not being honoured by the state of Texas.” Her father, Ernest Machado, 60, a former police officer, told the Dallas News: “That poor foetus 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. All we want is to let her rest, to let her go to sleep. What they’re [the hospital staff] doing serves no purpose.”

This shows the problems of legislating in an area, where doctors and families should have discretion.

Assuming the courts do not over-rule the hospital, then we have three broad possible outcomes:

  1. The baby/feotus dies or is still-born, meaning Munoz was kept on life support for no reason for several months, causing huge anguish to her family.
  2. The baby is born, but is severely brain damaged. Who then looks after him or her?
  3. The baby is born and is healthy, and grows up learning that if his family had got their way, they would not have been born.

So whatever happens, the outcome looks to be pretty sad.

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26 Responses to “A sad case”

  1. Andrei (2,528 comments) says:

    A classic example of shallow emotionalism used by liberals to advance their sacred rites of baby killing.

    When it comes down to it if Marlise is dead then she is not suffering by carrying this child and it is worth waiting a few months before taking the irrevocable step of shutting off life support.

    And we do after all read tales on a frequent basis of pregnant women being diagnosed with cancer and delaying treatment until the baby is born at the cost of their own lives – I don’t know about you but I hold the women that make such a sacrifice in the highest of esteem.

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  2. dog_eat_dog (755 comments) says:

    After all, what are women but chutes for delivering us more precious lives, right?

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  3. Andrei (2,528 comments) says:

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/9542244/Mother-makes-supreme-sacrifice-for-son

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  4. dog_eat_dog (755 comments) says:

    Yea I guess an article where someone was free to make a non-legislated choice really proves your point.

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  5. kowtow (7,856 comments) says:

    dog eat dog

    If one accepts purely evolutionary terms then that is all any living organism is……a reproductive system.

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  6. ChardonnayGuy (1,168 comments) says:

    I feel sorry for both Marlise and Erick, given their tragic cirumstances. What a nightmarish situation. I suppose one way around this is if women and their partners make advance directives about what to do in such contingencies. Moreover, under New Zealand law, it is quite possible to refuse unneccessary medical treatment, under the Bill of Rights Act 1990.

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  7. Psycho Milt (2,337 comments) says:

    I suppose one way around this is if women and their partners make advance directives about what to do in such contingencies.

    Apparently she did, but the Texas legislature decided that it knows better than the citizens of Texas what medical treatment they should or shouldn’t receive.

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  8. Psycho Milt (2,337 comments) says:

    If one accepts purely evolutionary terms then that is all any living organism is……a reproductive system.

    I was under the impression you and Andrei felt otherwise, but apparently not.

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  9. Andrei (2,528 comments) says:

    If one accepts purely evolutionary terms then that is all any living organism is……a reproductive system.

    I was under the impression you and Andrei felt otherwise, but apparently not.

    I don’t know Milt but I can tell you this, that were I to have found myself in such circumstance I would have moved heaven and earth to try and save the child and that I would have had huge support of my extended family in this.

    Now for a thought experiment if you could go down to the TAB and place a bet on who would be first to hold his grandchildren on his knee, me or DPF, the author of this post, where would your money go?

    And this is why Liberalism as we know it is doomed in the long term

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  10. kowtow (7,856 comments) says:

    Psycho

    The ‘if” at start of sentence is a bit of a hint .

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  11. Sonny Blount (1,847 comments) says:

    At a certain point in a human beings life cycle, and this point is sometime after conception but before birth. A human’s life cannot be done away with by agreement between people.

    I do not have an opinion or the expertise to determine whether 14 weeks is before or after this.

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  12. J Bloggs (167 comments) says:

    Given the legal system of the USA, I’m not surprised that the hospital is sticking to the letter of the law in this case. They’re pretty much in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. I’m sure the medical staff would love to follow the family’s wishes and turn off life support, but to do so would put the hospital and its staff at risk of being prosecuted. Keeping this lady (and her foetus) alive, against the families wishes, is safest option for them legally.

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  13. Cato (1,095 comments) says:

    This will probably be quite a heated post with lots of hyperbole thrown in by all sides. I doubt much of the debate will be enlightening.

    Looking at this type of scenario dispassionately then, as with all life issues the question comes to down to whether regard an unborn child to be a) a human life that the law should protect, or b) a disposable potential life or c) a human life rendered disposable by a competing interest.

    If you subscribe to a) then the question is simple. If you subscribe to b) then I can see why you would be happy to just get rid of the baby. If you subscribe to c) (which I believe is DPF’s position) then I think it’s actually a little trickier.

    What’s the competing interest? It’s not the career or convenience of the braindead mother, after all. She’s beyond any help. Instead, you are weighing a human life against the preferences of her family that she die now and not be kept alive for another 6 months. That doesn’t dictate where you strike the balance but it is not the same as, say, a mother having a termination for therapuetic or career reasons.

    I don’t accept the soundness of the eugenic arguments. For starters, a disabled person – even a severely disabled person – remains a person. Secondly, there are laws and services available that deal with unwanted, disabled and even brain-dead infants.

    I also don’t accept that it is a major factor that the child – should he or she be healthy – will grow up knowing his family wanted him or her dead. This is a who/whom question. If you found out that it would undoubtedly hurt – but would you really rather you weren’t born? Would you really want someone else making that decision for you?

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  14. Psycho Milt (2,337 comments) says:

    Now for a thought experiment if you could go down to the TAB and place a bet on who would be first to hold his grandchildren on his knee, me or DPF, the author of this post, where would your money go?

    On you, definitely. I’m just confused as to why anyone should imagine becoming a grandparent younger than someone else is some kind of praiseworthy achievement or goal to strive for. Reducing the planet to standing room only isn’t some kind of noble cause.

    I don’t know Milt but I can tell you this, that were I to have found myself in such circumstance I would have moved heaven and earth to try and save the child and that I would have had huge support of my extended family in this.

    Those circumstances apparently include your wife having left written instructions that her body must not be kept running by machines after her death, which would make your efforts a public declaration that you considered your wife a mere breeding vessel. They also include the fact that the foetus was subjected to the same oxygen starvation that killed its mother’s brain, and received the same electric shocks intended to resuscitate its mother, so would in all likelihood be very severely disabled if this machine-enabled insanity gets a result. They also include the fact that you would be conducting a very expensive experiment on your wife’s dead body, which is something you as a husband shouldn’t either contemplate or endure unless she specifically requested it before death – which, in this case we know she didn’t because she specifically directed otherwise.

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  15. Ed Snack (1,771 comments) says:

    I wonder if this woman had the ability to decide, whether she would want the baby to be born if it could ? One suspects that she would. I don’t see this as so wrong headed as a result, although there have to be caveats over the health of the foetus (as it is at this stage); it’s probably too undeveloped to see if it is sufficiently undamaged to survive.

    I’m more surprised that the family apparently doesn’t want the child to survive it it can, perhaps they regard it as a potential nuisance ? Perhaps they could order an abortion assuming they have the implied mother’s consent to that, and then turn off the life support.

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  16. Scott Chris (5,941 comments) says:

    If the woman is legally dead then I’m guessing that the fetus is now the charge of the hospital whose premises it is in. Therefore the doctors can’t conscionably turn off life support for the woman for fear of harming their charge.

    Unfortunately that probably means that even if the fetus is brain damaged, the doctors have to fulfil their obligation to do no harm.

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  17. J Bloggs (167 comments) says:

    ChardonayGuy: An Advance Directive wouldn’t have helped. The Texas statute involved specifically overrides Advance Directives when there is a foetus involved. Under the law, the hospital is REQUIRED to maintain life support until the baby can be born or dies naturally in utero

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  18. Andrei (2,528 comments) says:

    I’m just confused as to why anyone should imagine becoming a grandparent younger than someone else is some kind of praiseworthy achievement or goal to strive for. Reducing the planet to standing room only isn’t some kind of noble cause.

    Oh fie Milt you introduced evolution into this debate in a snide sneering manner. I merely used the arguments implicit in the theory itself to point out that future belongs to those who raise children, an undeniable fact. The statement makes no value judgement on that, like evolution itself makes no value judgements (nature can be/is cruel, as anyone who observes it quickly notices).

    It is undeniable my friend that those who put their energies into raising children are far more likely to have descendants 100 years from now than those who contracept them into non existence or abort them – whether these choices are made for genetic or cultural reasons matter not a whit the result will be the same.

    About 100 years ago 10% of New Zealand’s population were Catholic and over 80% were Anglican. Today 10% of the population is still Catholic but the Anglican proportion has absolutely collapsed to be a trifle less than 10%. The Anglican Church was the first Christian denomination to sanction contraception, followed soon after by most other protestants whereas the Catholic Church to this day does not – without placing any value judements on anything can’t you see that this observation is no coincidence

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  19. Harriet (4,607 comments) says:

    Life doesn’t seem to have an absolute value around here.

    Life to some people is valued by a required standard of living – and not by principle.

    You can then see how they degenerate into the belief that a ‘women has the right to do with her body as she sees fit’ slogan.

    Yet: No smacking is a ‘hands off’ law for parents. – If you survive abortion that is.

    And: No doctor would cut the arms and legs off a women if ever asked to do so.

    And: The women who kill always kill for social reasons.

    Their ‘right’ is not a reason, and certainly not a valid reason – as it’s a slogan.

    The only valid reasons for abortion are very rare medical ones.

    Women should be stripped of that right.

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  20. edhunter (507 comments) says:

    Life only has value to the living, neither the mother or the fetus are living, the partner & this family is being denied the right to grieve & to fulfill the deads wishes.
    And Andrei 23yrs ago I wanted my partner to have an abortion, she didn’t & I now have a strapping 21yr old son, who I have a fantastic relationship with & of whom I’m immensely proud. But I haven’t changed my mind on the abortion or about abortion in general. I’m not saying I wish my son had been aborted once the decision was made to keep it I threw myself 100% into it. But I’ve had the conversation about it with him openly & frankly & it has tarnished or diminished our relationship 1 iota.

    And to quote one of the great philosophers of our time Bill Hicks

    But I’ll tell you this. Where’s this idea that childbirth is a miracle came from. Ha, I missed that fucking meeting, okay? “It’s a miracle, childbirth is a miracle.” No it’s not. No more than a miracle than eating food and a turd coming out of your ass. It’s a chemical reaction, that’s all it fucking is. If, you wanna know what a miracle is: raisin’ a kid that doesn’t talk in a movie theatre. Okay, there, there, there is a goddam miracle. It’s not a miracle if every nine months any yin yang in the world can drop a litter of these mewling cabbages on our planet. And just in case you haven’t seen the single mom statistics lately, the miracle is spreading like wild-fire. “Hallelujah!” Trailer parks and council flats all over the world just filling up with little miracles. Thunk, thunk, thunk, like frogs laying eggs. “Thunk, look at all my little miracles, thunk, filling up my trailer like a sardine can. Thunk. You know what would be a real miracle, if I could remember your daddy’s name, aargh, thunk. I guess I’ll have to call you Lorry Driver Junior. Thunk. That’s all I remember about your daddy was his fuzzy little pot-belly riding on top of me shooting his caffeine ridden semen into my belly to produce my little water-headed miracle baby, urgh. There’s your brother, Pizza Delivery Boy Junior

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  21. Fentex (898 comments) says:

    I would have thought that assuming the women in question was in control of her reproduction that her being pregnant is evidence she wished to have a child.

    I also think getting married is all about combining responsibilities and her having died her husband is left with authority on what to do.

    I wouldn’t want to second guess and insert myself in the horrible circumstances people who suffer such tragedy’s have to confront. I must conclude that the husband with both the authority his marriage infers and responsibility for outcomes he carries is the person with the decision to make.

    I have no reason to believe he does not appreciate his deceased wifes character and ambitions or is ignoring them. His decision should have been honoured when it was first required.

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  22. cha (3,825 comments) says:

    Keeping a brain dead women alive cadaver going by artificial means to grow a brain-dead foetus cadaver to term sounds like something only a pro-death cult would applaud.

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  23. gump (1,538 comments) says:

    Another case in which religion has ruined everything.

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  24. Jaffa (82 comments) says:

    The family are right.
    Let nature take it’s course!

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  25. Dazzaman (1,129 comments) says:

    This shouldn’t have been hard at the start. With the mother dead, in every sense, there is no way the child would’ve survived outside the womb. Life support should’ve been turned off at that point.

    It was obscene to keep this woman’s bodily functions going, it would not have been a termination akin to artificially-induced abortion….the child wouldn’t have survived at any rate. If the babe was near enough to term at the time then it would have been the correct thing to attempt to save it…….

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  26. nark (14 comments) says:

    A Texas judge ordered a Fort Worth hospital to take Marlise Munoz — a pregnant woman whose family says she is brain dead — off a ventilator, respirator and other machines by 5 p.m. Monday.

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