Man Wants to End Pregnant Wife’s Life Support, Would Kill Unborn Baby

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 23, 2013   |   2:06PM   |   Washington, DC

A Texas man wants to end his unconscious pregnant wife’s life support, even though she is pregnant with an 18-week-old unborn baby.

Marlise Munoz collapsed and permanently lost consciousness. Previously, she informed her family that she wouldn’t want to be kept alive in such circumstances and, normally, the family would have the say in ending life support and Munoz’s life would be ended.

However, Marlise is pregnant and Texas law prohibits removing pregnant women from life support.

As UPI reports:

Munoz, 33, became brain dead Nov. 26 when she collapsed from a suspected pulmonary embolism. Her husband, Erick Munoz, a paramedic, found her on the living room floor of their Tarrant County, Texas, home, and performed CPR before an ambulance arrived.

“They don’t know how long the baby was without nutrients and oxygen,” Erick Munoz said. “But I’m aware what challenges I might face ahead.”

Erick Munoz said he and his wife, who was also a paramedic, had decided they didn’t want to be kept alive by machines before Marlise Munoz fell ill. He said he wants to end her life support.

“It’s hard to reach the point where you wish your wife’s body would stop,” he told WFAA-TV, Dallas.



Texas law, though, puts the rights of the fetus first.

“A person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient,” the law says.

Wesley Smith, a pro-life attorney and bioethicist, commented on the case:

I normally believe that decisions about wanting or not wanting life support should be followed–assuming clear and convincing proof. But no “right” is absolute. There is a second life here. And that matters.

Besides, from the story we don’t know what Marlise would “want” if she knew that removing life support would also cause her unborn baby to die. That could well have been a huge factor in her thinking about what she would have wanted under these terrible circumstances.

In this case, the question involves a benefit of the doubt. I think Texas law made the right decision as a matter of policy by giving that benefit to saving the lives of unborn babies. After birth, the family should be free to decide.

What if the fetus–now 18 weeks along–was permanently injured?

My view: If he or she continues to develop toward viability, I think it would be discriminatory to make potential disability a factor in applying the law.