'Marlise's Law' Would Give Pregnant People End-of-Life Decision Rights


It’s been a little more than a year since the family of Marlise Munoz was allowed to take her off life support. The Azle, Texas woman was kept artificially alive against her family’s wishes for two months while clinically brain-dead because she was pregnant. Now her family is supporting a new bill that would give pregnant Texans advance directive rights in the event of a similar tragedy.

RH Reality Check’s Andrea Grimes reports that HB 3183, dubbed “Marlise’s Law,” has been introduced by Texas State Rep. Elliot Naishtat; in a press release, Naishtat says the bill is meant to repeal the state law that makes someone’s advance directives null and void once they’re pregnant.

“Being pregnant should not prohibit a woman from having her personal decision respected,” Naishtat is quoted as saying. “The law should reflect the consideration a woman puts into planning the treatment she wishes to receive, or not receive, when she is no longer able to express herself. Planning for end-of-life care is a deeply personal decision-making process for all persons, including those who may be pregnant.”

Grimes reports that Munoz’s husband Erick and her father Ernie Machado supported the law at an emotional press conference, saying it would keep other families from going through the ordeal they experienced. The family had to face off in court against John Peter Smith Hospital, arguing that Munoz, a paramedic, had been clear that she never wanted to be kept alive artificially.

“We did what was best for Marlise,” Machado said at the press conference. “We continue to do what we think is best for Marlise now that she has passed away, so that other families don’t have to go through what we did.”

Meanwhile, though, another state representative, Matt Krause, is sponsoring a bill that would appoint guardians ad litem for the fetuses of brain-dead people. (Not the first time a non-person has been given more legal rights than the living person whose body it inhabits: states like Alabama already appoint attorneys for the fetuses of pregnant minors.) Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal signed a bill last June making it illegal to take a pregnant person off life support in the event that they become mentally incapacitated. You can check here whether your state overrides advance directives in the event of pregnancy.

Erick Munoz, center, leaves a Fort Worth courthouse last January. Photo via AP

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