Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Removing Life Support - 8 Reasons the Munoz Decision Was Wrong

By now you've most likely heard about the brain dead Texas mother, whose life support was removed recently - even though her pre-born child was still depending on it for survival. Many have weighed in on this heartbreaking story. The multitude of comments I have read have been provocative, morally based and/or well thought out, while others were heated and emotionally charged. I've read, pondered, debated and discerned. Below I've listed eight conclusions to which I've come.

1. The mother, Marlise Munoz, was irreparably damaged - physically. Her own life would most likely never improve. Removing extraordinary medical measures from her body seems to have been a licit act - had she not been pregnant.

2. Since Mrs. Munoz wasn't the only person to be considered, however, a different set of criteria begged to be used. Almost certainly, she lacked the physical ability to recover but within her womb lived another person. This pre-born child was living and growing. She had her own unique set of God-given rights.
3. Texas law, justly, has called for sustaining the life of the mother if she is pregnant. In the Munoz case, judicial manipulation countermanded this ethically based law.
4. Baby Munoz's life had been maintained, within her mother's womb, for nine weeks already. This wasn't a case of asking for extraordinary means after the fact. The medical intervention, needed to assist the continuing life of the child, was an on-going treatment. Removing this treatment, once implemented, was morally different from not having initially begun it.

5. Whether or not this little baby girl was suffering from physical or mental defects had no licit impact on the morality of this case. Physical or mental perfection has never been an acceptable criterion for the right to life.
At 20 weeks* - the Munoz baby was 23 weeks. 
6. Pre-born children of similar gestational age (23 weeks) have historically been found to be viable. Maintaining life-support on the mother for a few more weeks would have significantly improved the potential outcome for this pre-born little girl.
7. Instead, removing life-sustaining treatment had the direct effect of death - the ceasing of the life of a pre-born person. On the other hand, a Cesarean Section would have given the child an opportunity to live. Had the baby died under this circumstance, it would have not have been morally objectionable.

8. Had baby Munoz been born via C-Section, she would have had the opportunity to receive the sacrament of Baptism. I have found this aspect to be morally incomprehensible.

While I realize this situation was fraught with emotional difficulty for the Munoz family, I contend their decision was the morally wrong one. As understandable as it is that they would want to bury and mourn this loved member of their family, their emotional desires resulted in a morally illicit choice. Had they waited just a while longer, the fruit of their union – a little girl, posthumously named Nicole – could have continued to be a living legacy of their love. Rest well, Marlise and Nicole Munoz. May God, His Mother Mary, and the Angels wrap their loving arms around you.

In a related story, a brain dead mother sustains twins - while on life support - until their birth at 25 weeks. They are slowly improving and her family is grateful for their lives.

NOTE: For a study of mothers on life-support, and the outcome for their babies, see:

* What Does A Fetus Look Like at 20 Weeks?