March 16, 2015 — Competing bills filed in the Texas Legislature aim to address who has authority to make decisions for pregnant women during end-of-life medical care, the Texas Tribune reports (Walters/Ura, Texas Tribune, 3/12).
Muñoz Case Draws Attention to Issue
The issue gained national attention last year after a clinically dead pregnant woman, Marlise Muñoz, was kept on mechanical support at a Texas hospital against her family's wishes (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/10).
In refusing to end mechanical support, hospital officials had cited a state law that bars withdrawing "life-sustaining treatment" from a pregnant patient. Muñoz's husband filed a lawsuit against the hospital, and a state district judge in January 2014 ruled the state statute did not apply to Muñoz because she was brain dead and, therefore, legally dead. In compliance with the judge's order, the hospital ended mechanical support for Muñoz.
In the wake of the case, both Republicans and Democrats in the state Legislature said they wanted to clarify the law (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/29/14).
On Thursday, state Rep. Elliott Naishtat (D) introduced a bill (HB 3183) that would remove the state provision that bars withdrawal of treatment from a pregnant woman. Naishtat said, "A pregnant woman and her family should be allowed to decide what course of treatment is right for them."
Meanwhile, a bill (HB 1901) introduced by state Rep. Matt Krause (R) would strengthen the existing law by requiring that doctors keep pregnant patients on mechanical support, even if the patient is brain dead, and requiring health care providers to notify the state's attorney general of end-of-life situations involving pregnant women. If a woman's family were to take legal action, the state would appoint an attorney to argue on the fetus' behalf in court proceedings. Further, the attorney general would be required to create a list of attorneys for such situations (Texas Tribune, 3/12).