Fetal host

Pretty amazing story in the Times about a Texas woman who died, i.e., brain dead, when pregnant at 14 weeks, but the hospital is keeping her body alive so that her fetus can be born.  Entirely against the will of the family who would simply like her to be unplugged.  Lots of really interesting ethical issues here.  Interestingly, you clearly have a right to an abortion at 14 weeks, but you don’t necessarily have the right to remove life support from a pregnant woman at 14 weeks (similarly medically situated to a non-pregnant women where you would be able to remove the life support).   From the story:

FORT WORTH — The diagnosis was crushing and irrevocable. At 33, Marlise Munoz was brain-dead after collapsing on her kitchen floor in November from what appeared to be a blood clot in her lungs.

But as her parents and her husband prepared to say their final goodbyes in the intensive care unit at John Peter Smith Hospital here and to honor her wish not to be left on life support, they were stunned when a doctor told them the hospital was not going to comply with their instructions. Mrs. Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant, the doctor said, and Texas is one of more than two dozen states that prohibit, with varying degrees of strictness, medical officials from cutting off life support to a pregnant patient.

More than a month later, Mrs. Munoz remains connected to life-support machines on the third floor of the I.C.U., where a medical team monitors the heartbeat of the fetus, now in its 20th week of development. Her case has become a strange collision of law, medicine, the ethics of end-of-life care and the issues swirling around abortion — when life begins and how it should be valued.

“It’s not a matter of pro-choice and pro-life,” said Mrs. Munoz’s mother, Lynne Machado, 60. “It’s about a matter of our daughter’s wishes not being honored by the state of Texas.”

Mrs. Munoz’s father, Ernest Machado, 60, a former police officer and an Air Force veteran, put it even more bluntly. “All she is is a host for a fetus,” he said on Tuesday. “I get angry with the state. What business did they have delving into these areas? Why are they practicing medicine up in Austin?”

Got to say, I’m very much with the Machado’s here.  I think that “host for a fetus” really captures it.  Sure, the state has an interest in protecting potential human life, but that’s got to be balanced.  And I really don’t like the larger implications of using a brain dead woman as basically a human incubator.  A bit too much like the Handmaid’s Tale (which I really need to read one of these days) for my taste.

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