Whose choice is it?
There are moments in life when we are each called upon to make choices that directly and significantly impact not only ourselves, but which drastically alter the path of others. These decisions can often be the most difficult ones we find ourselves placed in front of. What makes this process even more challenging and painful for many people is when their personal heartfelt choices are met with resistance and opposition by the cold, hard reality of the law.
Such is the case with Erick and Marlise Muñoz, a young couple residing in Crowley, Texas, with their first-born 15-month-old son. Erick Muñoz found his wife, Marlise, collapsed in their home in November due to what doctors now believe to have been a blood clot in her lung. She has had no brain function since that time and has been declared dead based on neurological criteria, meaning her brain can no longer keep her body alive and functioning, and has been physically sustained by life-support machines since November 26, 2013.
And while Marlise did not place her desires in writing, she made her wishes clearly known to her entire family that she did not want to be kept alive by artificial means should unfortunate circumstances arise. But her family’s requests to honor her end-of-life desires and remove her from artificial life support have been denied by John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, because of the fact that Marlise Muñoz is 14 weeks’ pregnant.
At issue is a 1989 Texas law that blocks doctors from denying “life-sustaining treatment” to pregnant, terminally ill patients. And as a result of this law, even though the physical condition of the in utero baby is undetermined at this time, Marlise Muñoz’s body is being artificially sustained in order to harvest the body of her unborn child. Doctors are not able to ascertain at this early stage if or how long the baby was without oxygen or whether the automated external defibrillator device and heavy drugs used on the mother in an attempt to revive her have had an adverse effect on Baby Muñoz.
Erick Muñoz and her parents are petitioning the court to disconnect and discontinue all support systems, as they adamantly assert this was and is Marlise’s desire. “It’s not a matter of pro-choice and pro-life,” her mother told The New York Times. “It’s about a matter of our daughter’s wishes not being honored by the state of Texas.”
The hospital’s medical staff continue to implement and maintain life-preserving measures to Marlise Muñoz, as it is the law they must follow. And the life of the now 20-week-old baby nestled in the womb of Mrs. Muñoz hinges upon the choices placed before everyone involved.
Now that the decision has been placed in the hands of the legal system, what will happen? What should happen? Is this, contrary to what Marlise Muñoz’s mother said, simply a matter of pro-choice or pro-life? Whose choice is it? Whose life is this about? Does this choice belong in the court system? Does this choice belong to Marlise Muñoz? Does this choice belong to her family? Does her 20-week-old baby have a choice?
As in every occurrence, every happening, and every event that takes place in our world, I am wondering if there is a spiritual perspective that someone could offer which might provide us a deeper understanding or which could give us some wisdom or insight as we try to make sense of this complicated and heartbreaking situation.
(Lisa McCormack is a Feature Editor at The Global Conversation and lives in Orlando, Florida. To connect with Lisa, please e-mail her at Lisa@TheGlobalConversation.com.)