'Marlise's Law' aims to give pregnant women advance directive rights

After being declared brain dead, a pregnant Fort Worth woman was kept alive against her family's wishes because of how her doctor and hospital interpreted Texas law.

A House bill, which would be called Marlise's Law, was just filed. It would allow pregnant women to decide what they want done in advance if something goes wrong during their pregnancy.

The bill doesn't prevent a pregnant woman from receiving medical treatment, but it does allow health care providers to honor her wishes if she creates a written statement to be used in the event that she's unable to communicate with a doctor.

As it stands currently, this is a protection offered to all Texans except pregnant women.

Marlise Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant with her second child when she collapsed due to a blood clot in November 2013.

Her father, Ernest Machado, made rare public comments Thursday morning in Austin, introducing the bill.

"She wasn't someone who you would want to see in a hospital tied to machines," he said.

Marlise's mother, Lynne Machado, said health care providers at JPS Hospital in Fort Worth were forced to keep her alive for 62 days, even though she was legally dead.

"Our daughter's death was one of the most difficult days of our lives," said Lynne. "It became more difficult because politics were involved."

Marlise was finally removed from life support when a judge ordered the hospital to grant the family's wish. 

Her husband, Eric Munoz, said he never wanted to be in the spotlight like this.

"All I wanted was a family, a wife and the ability to provide for them a better future," said Eric.

But since it's happened, he said he's working with the American Civil Liberties Union.

"I'm here today in hopes that by changing this law and putting this new bill, known as Marlise's Bill, in place, families can endure whatever tragic loss as a private manner," he said.

Lynne said she regrets that she wasn't able to honor her daughter's final wishes.

"We are sure our situation won't be the last, and we want to help in Marlise's honor," said Lynne. "That is why we are here and that is why we are fighting."

Rep. Matt Krause of Fort Worth already filed a bill that has a very different goal. It would require hospitals to maintain life support for pregnant women,  even when they're declared brain dead, and would go so far as to appoint legal representative for the unborn child in court.

That was filed in February and referred to committee Wednesday.    


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