Being the pathetic news junkie that I am, I have a number of news organizations on my iPhone that send me notifications about the goings on in the world. A few minutes ago, I hear the familiar tone of my Breaking News app (a very useful app, by the way). I see that the Texas hospital that has the body of Marlise Munoz, the pregnant woman who collapsed in November and was declared brain dead, has FINALLY agreed to acquiesce to her husband's wishes and remove her from life support.
It is simply unbelievable that, in this supposed "free" country, this hospital took this poor woman's body hostage. Against everything medical science has taught, a law that was put on the book by the anti-choice movement back in the eighties, to assuage the Catholic Church and their voters, was interpreted by someone at this hospital as applying to this case. Did they consult her doctors to find out if her fetus could survive? If they did, they didn't listen. Fact is, it's rare for a fetus to live in a dead body, being kept alive by artificial means at such an early stage of pregnancy. If she were closer to viability, it could be possible. But, she was barely into her second trimester at fourteen weeks.
I, myself, am the mom of a preemie. My youngest was born at thirty weeks, weighing in at two pounds. So, I am intimately involved in the facts about premature birth and neonatology. I can speak preemie with the best of them, since, in a NICU, the only way to get a neonatologist to speak with you, the parent, is to learn the medical jargon tout de suite! Why? Because, to a neonatologist, the BABY is the patient and nurses are there to handle patients. Neonatologists want to get though rounds as quickly as possible and have very little patience for worried mothers.
So, when I read this case, I knew this was a hopeless. Just the fact that she stopped breathing for a significant amount of time meant that the fetus had suffered anoxia, leading to massive brain damage, minimally. There is really only a very small window of time for a fetus to go with little to no oxygen from the mother. Less then ten minutes (really, six minutes) and, even then, there is no guarantee of no brain damage. I learned this when I was hospitalized with my son. I only lasted a little over a week, laying on my right side, until I had to have an emergency c-section due to what is called "deceleration". Layman's terms.....my son's heart rate would drop to very low levels for significant amounts of times. And that meant only five to ten seconds but it happened many times a day. More than ten seconds and I had a team of L&D nurses hovering over me until his heart rate came up. The night his heart rate stayed down for over a minute was the night I was rushed into emergency surgery.
Add into the lack of maternal oxygen, take in the life saving drugs used on mom. All of it crosses the placenta. Epinephrine, Lidocaine, Adenosine, Vasopressin......all of these are contraindicated for use on pregnant women, since drug studies are usually never done on pregnant women. And, considering the dosage used on a patient in cardiac arrest (mom is the patient), the fetus got the same dosage as mom.
Oh, and did you read where both Marlise and her husband, Erick, are BOTH paramedics? So, Mr. Munoz was not ignorant of the facts of his wife's case. He's a medical professional. He did not make his choice lightly (as if anyone could). For this hospital to overrule his decision, as her legal spouse, was just reprehensible. Yet, this hospital administration took it upon themselves to overrule Mr. Munoz' legal rights, to put him and Marlise's family through the most horrible of turmoil, for what? It wouldn't have taken long to do the research. I am sure the doctors told the administration that there was zero chance of either mother or fetus surviving. That, at fourteen weeks, the hopes of getting that fetus to viability (twenty-two weeks, which is still a highly risky time to deliver, with the chance of a good outcome less than fifty percent) was not going to happen. I am sure their attorney told them that the law, as badly written as it is, was not meant to apply to a deceased mother, with a fetus just barely crossing the second trimester. They could have spared Mr. Munoz and his family all this drama. So, my question is, who was the douchebag(s) who dragged this out? What did they think they would accomplish by forcing a dead woman to stay pregnant? Because, really, if they were "pro-life", they just hurt their cause even further and made yet another example of the "war on women". Even in death we are being forced to be pregnant.
I am really hoping something good can come out of this tragedy. I hope Mr. Munoz has the strength to help change this appalling law, so that no other family has to suffer this type of tragedy. What is the worst part of this case was that Marlise Munoz wasn't even a factor. This decision came only after the anti-choicers in the hospital administration were convinced that HER FETUS was non-viable. Her wishes, her husband's wishes were completely shoved aside for certain people's political and religious dogma. Women are second class citizens to a fetus. Our wishes, our health are unimportant in the eyes of the anti-choicers. I wonder if the responsible parties will step up and admit that they were the roadblocks in this nightmare, instead of hiding behind the generic "the hospital".
I sincerely hope that the good people of Texas think of this incident when they go to the polls to choose a new governor and legislators. I wonder what it takes for the people in Texas to realize that they are the pawns in a brokered political game? That their safety (industry not monitored for safety or compliance), their health (Gov. Perry's stubborn refusal to accepted expanded Medicaid funding), women's health (the closing of almost all clinics providing abortion, which is a legal right, through draconian lawmaking) or their education (which is utterly dismal throughout Texas, if you are poor. 1) are not being looked after. I am hoping that the good people of Texas wake up and realize that this experiment of being sold to the highest bidder by Rick Perry and his gang of elegant thieves haven't done most of them much good. But, as the saying goes, if wishes were horses.....
UPDATE: And, we have found the snake. His name is Neal Adams and he is the General Council for John Peter Smith Hospital. He also sits on the board of Northeast Tarrant Right to Life Educational Assocation . From what I have been reading, he is quite the anti-choice zealot. I love the hospital's argument...."Oh, no! The state's attorney will be representing us!" Like Mr. Adams and his group doesn't have such a hold on the board of the hospital. This is truly sick and I hope Mr. Munoz has the strength to go after these vipers. Marlise Muñoz and the politics of life and death in Tarrant County, Texas
NYT: Pregnant, and Forced to Stay on Life Support
Med Page Today: A Brain-Dead Mother, a Million-Dollar Baby
The Rude Pundit: Our Neverending Abortion War: The Obscene Horror Show Playing Out in Texas:
1. Politifacts Texas: Rick Perry says Texas has third-highest high school graduation rates, a "significant turnaround"