The GEM Debate:
Should Pregnant Brain Dead Women Be Kept On Life Support? (POLL)
A new law waiting to be signed into law by Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal would require that pregnant, brain dead women be kept on life support, regardless of the stated wishes of her family. House Bill 1274, sponsored by state Rep. Austin Badon (D), specifies that if a woman is at least 20 weeks pregnant, the doctor must keep her on mechanical support unless her will specifically states that she wants to be taken off life support if she is pregnant. The bill overwhelmingly passed the House and Senate.
HB1274 is similar to a Texas law that banned medical officials from cutting off life support to a pregnant woman. In a case that made national headlines, 33-year-old Marlise Munoz had a pulmonary embolism that left her brain dead. She was 14 weeks pregnant at the time. A Fort Worth hospital kept her on life support for two months against her family’s wishes because of the law that states “a person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient.”
A judge ruled that the law didn’t apply to Munoz because she was legally dead. The hospital ended up following the judge’s order to remove Munoz from life-sustaining machines instead of pursuing further litigation. Her husband’s attorneys said the fetus was “distinctly abnormal” with physical deformities and life-threatening conditions.
During his testimony, Rep. Badon asked, “Do we really want to pull the plug of that healthy baby?” I think most reasonable people would probably say, “no,” but this issue is not one that can easily be answered with a single word. There are many factors at play that make it necessary for families and medical practitioners to make this decision.
Who is going to pay the massive hospital bills that will be incurred by keeping a woman alive as an incubator? The family? If they don’t want this, why should they be possibly bankrupted to do it? Will the state pay for it? If so (and we know that’s not going to happen), why should the taxpayer be forced to foot this bill? Who will provide continuing care for a child born with severe abnormalities or disabilities? What quality of life can the child be expected to have?
I don’t like this law because—unless she planned on having a tragedy while pregnant—the woman’s voice is left out. I object to the suffering that her already hurting family has to go through while they try to carry out her wishes. I object to an intrusive law that has no nuance and doesn’t take into account a woman’s condition, a condition that doctors with their medical expertise, can speak on but government cannot. As an aside, I wonder if medical ethicists were consulted to discuss the implications of this law and how it will play out in real life.
In a statement to MSNBC, NARAL President Ilyse Hogue said:
Laws like this show the sinister underlying belief that anti-choice politicians hold – that women’s sole purpose is to have children, and once we are pregnant, our rights to make our own decisions fly right out the window regardless of what we think, our families think, and what medical experts think. And when women suffer unimaginable tragedies in our pregnancies that render us incapable of making our own decisions, those are best left to those who know and love us and to the medical professionals who are charged with our care.
Many laws are imperfect, but HB1274 opens a huge Pandora’s box of medical, moral, ethical, and legal problems. This issue of brain dead pregnant woman being medically supported to bring a baby to term is best left to the families involved and the doctors.
What do you think of Louisiana’s HB1274? Should brain dead women be kept alive until their babies are born? Take the poll and share your thoughts below.