A Pregnant Mom’s Fight to Die
Marlise Munoz is lying in a Texas hospital, growing the baby she died carrying. On November 26, 2013, her husband found her unconscious and unresponsive, a victim of a pulmonary embolism, a condition for which pregnant women face an increased risk. After administering emergency CPR, the blood clot cut off flow to Marlise’s lungs and robbed her fetus of oxygen for an unknown period of time. Even though her heart was restarted in the hospital, Munoz was declared brain dead shortly after. She will never wake up.
Her family decided to respect her expressed wish not be kept alive artificially. After losing her brother four years earlier, Marlise and her husband—both paramedics who have witnessed death firsthand—had made their wishes clear. However, the Texas hospital responsible for Marlise’s care didn’t allow that to happen. They cited a provision of an obscure Texas law prohibiting the patient to die so long as she is pregnant. The hospital states they are only following the law, while legal experts counter that the hospital’s interpretation of the law is in error. All the while the Munoz family, Marlise, and the unborn child wait in limbo.
There have only been 30 documented cases in the US of a child being born to a brain dead mother, six of which were followed closely enough to reveal that all of the six had not only survived the birth, but infancy as well. The Munoz family isn’t interested in statistics, however—they simply want a definitive answer on if they will be allowed to remove Marilise, and the unborn child, from life support and begin to put this painful chapter behind them. Marlise’s husband, Erick Munoz, understands full well the consequences of extended oxygen deprivation and the effect it will most likely have had on his unborn baby. During this painful time he has had to defend his position on his wife’s condition and his insistence that her wishes to not live on life support be respected. That they’re not is the salt in an already gaping wound.
Opinions from both sides are heated, and oftentimes vicious. Posters on news sites and blogs accuse Munoz of shirking his responsibility as a father and husband, while others in his community have rallied around him and his family. All Erik Munoz knows is that this is definitely not what Marlise had wanted, so he continues going to work, raising their 16-month-old son, visiting his dead wife’s body and waiting for the time he will finally be allowed to let her go.
The intersection between The State and The Person is blatantly clear in this very sad example—even a woman’s right to die is contested in the state of Texas. The heart-wrenching interviews of a husband willing his beloved wife’s body to die is almost too much to watch. Because regardless of where you stand in the debate on conception, losing a wife and child warrants compassion and empathy.
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