I had not planned to do any blogging over the holidays but then there was this whitehot-rage-inducing item in the news today:
Marlise Munoz, 33, is in serious condition in the intensive care unit at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, hospital officials said. She is unconscious and on a ventilator, her husband told CNN affiliate WFAA, but she wouldn't have wanted her life sustained by a machine.
"We talked about it. We're both paramedics," he told WFAA. "We've seen things out in the field. We both knew that we both didn't want to be on life support."
Complicating an already difficult situation is that Munoz is also pregnant, about 18 weeks along, WFAA reported. Texas state law prohibits withdrawing or withholding life-sustaining treatment from a pregnant patient, regardless of her wishes.
So because she's halfway through a pregnancy, her carefully chosen decisions regarding her health care – which as her husband notes were done with experience and insight few people possess – are disregarded and the woman will be conscripted into serving as an involuntary incubator. Her grief-stricken husband wants to let her go so that he and their young son can grieve and go on with their lives. But no, the state wants to prolong his agony and make him deal with the potentially brain damaged child that may result from the pregnancy going to term. (No, it is not a "child" yet, anti-choicers.) Is the state going to pick up the tab for the birth and a possible lifetime of intensive care for the infant?
As soon as I tweeted the article a lawyer friend of mine sent me this informative document from the Center for Women Policy Studies. They identify eleven other states besides Texas where advanced directives or living wills are automatically invalidated if the patient is pregnant. Surprisingly, Arizona is not on the list. Our state appears to have a sensible policy where the woman opts for continued lifesaving treatment in the event she is pregnant.
For the states that do override the woman's directives, it's not hard to see where that slippery slope could lead. We're already sliding down it to some extent, with women being forced to undergo c-sections against their wishes and the recent case of a pregnant woman being handcuffed and her fetus assigned its own lawyer because she admitted to prior drug use. Consider how diligently anti-choicers are trying to redefine fetal viability (all the way back to conception if they can manage it) and then consider the infinite number of things a woman can do that might be "dangerous" to a developing fetus. We pro-choicers sometimes joke that the private prison industry is behind a lot of the "fetal protection" laws coming along. We may not be off-base there.
Oh, and in advance of anti-choicers and various concern-trolls with their inevitable whine – But..but…what if the pregnant braindead lady is, like, super duper far along in her pregnancy? When should we draw the line? WHO GETS TO DECIDE??!? My answer is that if you are neither the pregnant person, nor her legal representative in the case of her incapacitation, then the person who gets to make the decision is not you.
If you are a lady of childbearing age in Arizona with an advanced directive/living will you might want to look over your documents to ensure that your wishes in the event of pregnancy are known.
And for my friends here at Blog for Arizona, I want to express my deep appreciation for your generous invitation to contribute here. It's an honor. Everyone have a happy and safe New Year. Onward to 2014!