April 25, 2014 — A Louisiana House committee on Wednesday advanced legislation (HB 348) that would require health care providers to continue medical support for pregnant women who are brain dead in order to maintain their bodies' functions until birth, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports (Deslatte, AP/Sacramento Bee, 4/23). The bill would also apply to comatose or otherwise incapacitated women (O'Donoghue, New Orleans Times-Picayune, 4/23). The measure now proceeds to the full House.
Under current law, when determining procedures to sustain bodily functions "any ambiguity shall be interpreted to preserve human life."
The new bill, proposed by state Rep. Austin Badon (D), would add more explicit language requiring that physicians and hospitals implement procedures to sustain bodily functions in situations where an obstetrician determines a woman's life "can reasonably be maintained in such a way as to permit the continuing development and live birth of the unborn child" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 4/23).
The approved measure did not go as far as the original bill, which would have superseded "do not resuscitate" orders and any other legal documents where a woman might have stated her preferences for such situations. However, the measure could still create obstacles if a woman's family wishes to end treatment that is sustaining her bodily functions if she is pregnant, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune (New Orleans Times-Picayune, 4/23).
According to the AP/Bee, Badon proposed the measure in response to a recent Texas case that involved similar issues. In that case, a hospital only removed devices sustaining bodily functions for a brain-dead pregnant woman -- in accordance with the family's wishes -- after a court determined that state law did not require that treatment be maintained for the sake of the fetus (AP/Sacramento Bee, 4/23).