Texas Lawmaker Crafting Bill to Protect Rights of Unborn When Mother is Brain Dead

ultrasoundAUSTIN, Texas — A Texas lawmaker is working to craft a bill that would protect the rights of unborn children in cases where the mother is declared brain dead.

The legislation comes in response to an incident in Fort Worth that made headlines last year as a judge ordered that a pregnant woman be removed from life support as per her family’s wishes, thus ending both her life and that of her nearly 23-week-old unborn child.

As previously reported, in November 2013, Marlise Munoz, 33, was found unconscious in the middle of the night by her husband Erick, 26. According to Mr. Munoz, the woman got up after 2 a.m. to check on their infant son, and when she did not return, he got up to check on both of them, finding his wife collapsed on the floor.

Doctors believe that Munoz suffered a blood clot in her lung, which caused her to collapse. She had no brain activity over the two months that she spent at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth. However, her baby, who was fourteen weeks gestation at the time of the incident, reportedly had a measurable heartbeat, which resulted in a disagreement between the hospital and Munoz’ family.

Munoz’ husband and her parents both wanted the mother removed from life support, asserting that she would not wish to be kept alive by machines. The family filed a lawsuit against John Peter Smith Hospital after officials contended that they could not legally remove Munoz from the ventilator due to the Texas Advance Directive Act, which states that “a person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment” from a pregnant woman.

Following a hearing, Judge R.H. Wallace sided with Munoz’ family, stating that she was deceased and that the law cited by the hospital did not apply to the dead. As the hospital had argued at trial that it had never pronounced Munoz dead, Wallace ordered that it do so and remove her from life support. The hospital decided to comply with the order and removed Munoz from the ventilator two days later.

Munoz later decided to name the deceased baby Nicole—his wife’s middle name—after he requested that the hospital conduct one final sonogram as he wished to learn the sex of the child. However, attorneys for Munoz had released a statement just a week prior claiming that the sex of the child was not able to be determined due to deformities.

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Now, Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) is working to craft a bill that seeks to protect the rights of unborn children in such circumstances. Krause’ bill would allow for the baby to have his or her own representative in court, who would argue for the interests of the child.

“You’ll hear what the family wants, and you’ll also give the pre-born child a chance to have a voice in court at that same time,” he told the Dallas Morning News. “The judge weighs everything and he or she makes their decision based on that.”

But Munoz’ parents told the outlet that they oppose the concept.

“To me, that’s saying that my family was not looking out for the best interest of Marlise and the fetus,” mother Lynne Machado stated. “We feel our actions and decisions were based on what was best for both of them.”

Texas Alliance for Life and Texans for Life both back the creation of the legislation.

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  • Oboehner

    Both parties will be running from that like rats when the lights are turned on.

  • Fundisi

    This is America Mr. Lawmaker, we kill children in the tens of millions, we do not want to save them. We want to decrease the human population, we hate children. That was sarcasm by the way.

  • SFBruce

    My heart goes out to the Munoz family. Fortunately, most of us won’t have to face this particular horrific decision, but when this does occur, the state has no business interfering in what should be a decision between a family and the woman’s physician.

  • Lisa

    I don’t know a lot about this issue but according to some comments I read on another site about an issue like this one, the commenters who said they were nurses said that it wasn’t good to have a baby getting nutrients from a dead body. That kind of made sense to me since even though the body is on life support-can it really be a good environment to grow a baby? Is it really an abortion if the mom is dead and cannot sustain her life let alone the baby’s?

    • WorldGoneCrazy

      The body is not dead. “Brain dead” is a highly disputed term that has nothing to do with clinical death. Besides, if the baby can’t get nutrients from a woman who is brain dead (which is false), then it would seem that your argument is to kill the baby before she dies? http://www.lifenews.com/2014/12/30/recent-cases-prove-babies-born-to-brain-dead-pregnant-women-can-survive/

      • Dr. Dee Tee

        @wgc–you obviously do not comprehend what brain dead really means.

        • WorldGoneCrazy

          Please feel free to educate me, Dr. Tee. And, also explain the cases of “brain dead” women giving birth that I provided. God bless!

          • Dr. Dee Tee

            i doubt you would listen

          • WorldGoneCrazy

            Is it really that, or are you just bluffing? 🙂 God bless you, Dr. Dee Tee!

          • Dr. Dee Tee

            not bluffing. what medical training do you have that makes you more of an expert than doctors? what nutrients are being sent to the fetus once a person stops brain activity?

            everything has to be artificially kept going and since when has anything artificial been good for you?

          • WorldGoneCrazy

            “what medical training do you have that makes you more of an expert than doctors? ” I could ask you the same question, since you clearly do not know what you are talking about, in a medical sense!

            “what nutrients are being sent to the fetus once a person stops brain activity?” The very same nutrients that are being provided to the “dead” mom who is being kept alive artificially. Did you not know, “Dr.,” that when a pregnant woman takes in nourishment, some of that is processed in a way that becomes accessible to the baby?!? Have you never heard the expression “eating for two?!?” Such a concept does not require very many medical degrees, hehe. 🙂

            “everything has to be artificially kept going and since when has anything artificial been good for you?” Tell that to the billions of people around the world who are taking artificial medicinal drugs to relieve them of their myriad afflictions! Some of the very same medical devices used to keep this “brain dead” woman alive were used for my daughter when she underwent open heart surgery. I can assure you, “Dr.”, that she believes those “artificial devices and drugs” are quote good – since they saved her life! 🙂 Really, what a bizarre statement to make – and so incredibly callous toward your fellow human beings who are suffering so much!

            You WERE bluffing after all – and not well! 🙂 God bless you, Dr. Dee Tee!

      • Lisa

        After rereading the article-I think the case I was referring to is the same one. Which is why it seemed so familiar. The parents were paramedics I thought and they weren’t disputing whether the women was gonna live or not, if I remember correctly, they were wanting to save the baby but that meant keeping mom on the machines for months. It wasn’t just one nurses opinion in the comments I read then, there were a few. I read about that guy in a coma who woke up, but when they took that lady off the machines she didn’t wake up but did die which makes me believe she really was dead. So if she is dead then we try to save a baby in a corpse? That seems really gross to me. Common sense says that wouldn’t be a good thing. The only other case I can think of is the young girl who had surgery on her throat and ended up brain dead. The parents refused to believe she was dead and when the hospital wanted to stop the machines found another hospital to take her and keep her alive. Personally I do think that little girl is dead and they are just keeping her alive because they don’t want her to die but it’s not my call to make. I have not heard any more news about her.
        I don’t know. Do we save a baby in a dead body because we have to save as many as we can? Can it be that you can cause more harm to save the baby that way? Or is everything ok and the baby will turn out just fine? Is it right to keep someone alive for the baby’s sake? It seems to me that this issue is not like abortion where the mom is living, breathing and thinking and chooses to kill her unborn child. In cases like this where the person is unrecoverable (and I say that she was because she did die once she was taken off life support) that it may not be for the best to keep the person going for the baby’s sake. But I can only go by what the article says happened and the nurses opinions because I am not a dr and I wasn’t there. I realize it is different when it happens to you or someone you love so….

        • WorldGoneCrazy

          Here is a person who was “brain dead” but wasn’t actually dead: http://www.worldmag.com/2015/02/texas_boy_in_coma_starts_breathing_after_doctors_insist_he_s_brain_dead

          The point is this: even if you wish to equate brain death with clinical death (which is false), the fact remains that fallible doctors are often wrong on the diagnosis of brain death. What’s the rush to put the woman in the ground? Besides, if the woman really IS dead, but the baby is doing just fine (miraculously!), why kill the baby too?!?

          • Lisa

            I agree with you that Drs are not infallible. I just thought the nurses comments were interesting and thought I’d share them. I really don’t know enough about this medically to keep going with this, thank you for the conversation.

  • Dr. Dee Tee

    so dumb. contrary to popular opinion, the father is the one with the say in all of these matters and the decisions lie with him.

  • How is it that a stranger has more rights over the life and death of a woman than her own family? This is disgusting!