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POLL: Should States Be Able to Invalidate Advance Directives of Pregnant Women?

The ability of doctors to end life support for terminally ill pregnant women is limited in at least 31 states regardless of the wishes of the family or preexisting directives by the patient.

Should pregnant women be kept alive to sustain an unborn child? Credit: Morguefile
Should pregnant women be kept alive to sustain an unborn child? Credit: Morguefile

By Patch Editor Kristi Reed 

A Texas family is waging a legal battle over whether or not a 33-year-old brain-dead pregnant woman can be kept on life support against her family's wishes.

Marlise Munoz suffered what doctors believe was a pulmonary embolism on Nov. 26, 2013. At the time, Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant. The doctors, according to an article in the New York Times, advised the family Munoz was brain-dead. Her husband and family were prepared to honor her wishes not to be left on life support, but were reportedly informed by the hospital that Munoz would be kept alive since Texas is one of a dozen states that automatically invalidates a woman's advance directives if she is pregnant.

Now, the family is preparing to wage a legal battle to end a situation which Munoz's father says has made his daughter a "host for a fetus."

Texas law, the Star-Telegram reports, states life-sustaining treatment may not be withdrawn or withheld from a pregnant patient. Art Caplan, director of medical ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, told the Star-Telegram he does not believe Texas law can be applied to a dead woman and Dr. Robert Fine, clinical director of the office of clinical ethics and palliative care for Baylor Health Care System, agreed telling the AP that if a patient is brain-dead, the patient is legally dead.

So far, the hospital has refused to concede that point.

"We are following the law of the state of Texas," JPS Hospital spokeswoman J.R. Labbe told NBC News. "This is not a difficult decision for us. We are following the law."

Pro-life group Texas Alliance for Life supports the hospital's decision. Joe Pojman, executive director of the group, told the Dallas News, “We commend the hospital for apparently doing everything possible to protect the life of the unborn child, who in our view is a separate person."

Should states have the right to invalidate advance directives when the patient is pregnant? Do the rights of the unborn child outweigh the rights of the mother? Let us know in the comments or vote in our pollNote: This is not a scientific poll. It is for entertainment purposes only.


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