Marlise Muñoz

Marlise Muñoz is a pregnant woman who is being kept on life support against her and her family’s wishes because of the Texas Advanced Directives Act which states, in part,

A person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient.

Her doctors have already declared her brain dead, and their reports claim that the fetus (14 weeks gestation at the time of Marlise’s death) is already so deformed that sex cannot be determined.

Today, I’d like to try to figure out who benefits from the law. It isn’t Marlise herself. She was an EMT, and her husband claims that her wishes were clear: she didn’t want to be kept on life support. It isn’t her family. Her parents and her husband want to honor her wishes, and her parents even expressed an interest in overturning the current law. It isn’t the hospital. Though there is some profit to be made on keeping her in her current state, the reason given by the hospital sounds like it’s based on the fear of legal repercussions if they don’t.

I think that covers all of the parties who are directly involved. Does it benefit society? It’s hard to see how a law that overrides a woman’s wishes for end of life decisions can be generally positive. In this case, it isn’t even clear that the child’s best interests are being served, since a brain-dead body cannot properly regulate hormone levels (or other factors necessary for the normal development of a fetus). A society in which we are forced to use legally dead women to incubate fetuses sounds less than ideal — I think we can all agree to that.

Who does benefit then? Why is this law in place? Apparently, laws of this type were a response to advance directives (living wills) — an attempt to appease the Roman Catholic Church. Now it begins to make sense. Rather, it becomes clear that it shouldn’t be a law. Laws apply to everyone, regardless of religion, so they should be formulated on principles that are not based on religious beliefs.

When I talk to people from western Europe, they think it’s quaint that being an atheist is something worthy of discussion. The way that I think it’s quaint when someone from Kansas thinks that being gay is a big deal. This is an example of why the discourse on religion still matters here. American atheists have to live with religiously motivated laws that benefit no one!

More info on this topic:

Pregnant, and forced to stay on life support (NYT) 

Marlise Munoz On Life Support Sparks Controversy And Lawsuit (Huffington Post)

Brain-Dead Marlise Munoz’s Fetus Is “Distinctly Abnormal.” (Slate)

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