A Ft. Worth lawmaker is seeking to pass a bill in the Texas legislature extending legal representation to a fetus carried by a pregnant woman if the woman is declared brain dead or is otherwise permanently incapacitated, reports The Dallas Morning News.
Republican Rep. Matt Krause is currently working with legislative bill-drafters preparing the measure to be introduced to the House.
According to Krause, his legislation would give a “pre-born child” a voice when a family is making an end-of-life decision.
“You’ll hear what the family wants, and you’ll also give the pre-born child a chance to have a voice in court at that same time,” Krause said. “The judge weighs everything and he or she makes their decision based on that.”
For the family of Marlise Munoz, the proposed law comes as a slap in the face after the ordeal they endured last year attempting to take the pregnant woman off of life support.
Muñoz, 33, and a paramedic, collapsed in her home in November of 2013 from a pulmonary embolism. Scans taken at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth revealed that she was brain dead.
However, when her family asked the hospital to remove her from life support — as her husband said she would have wanted — doctors refused, saying that state law compelled them to keep her alive because she was 14-weeks pregnant.
Weeks later it took a court order from a judge to force the hospital to take the woman off life support, with her husband stating in an affidavit for the court: “As a married man, I became very familiar with the way Marlise’s body felt, the way her hair smelled, and the way her eyes appeared when we looked at each other among other things. Over these past two months, nothing about my wife indicates she is alive. When I bend down to kiss her forehead, her usual scent is gone, replaced instead with what I can only describe as the smell of death.”
Lynne Machado, the mother of Marlise Muñoz criticized Krause’s efforts to create a new barrier to personal family medical decisions, and took offense at his suggestion that an outsider should be involved in a decision over what is best for the family.
“To me that’s saying that my family was not looking out for the best interest of Marlise and the fetus,” Machado said. “We feel our actions and decisions were based on what was best for both of them.”
According to doctors, the fetus Muñoz was carrying was probably doomed due to abnormalities associated with the embolism, and would likely not survive.
Rebecca Robertson, legal and policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas criticized Krause’s proposal, saying it would “makes things worse” in cases like Muñoz’s.
“The circumstances are so different from family to family that what you need is for the family to have the fullest latitude to do what’s best for them,” Robertson explained.
Machado said she plans to testify before a House committee against Krause’s proposal, calling the family’s experience “a nightmare.”
“It’s been an absolute nightmare” Machado said. “Nobody should have to go through the pain, and frankly the torture, that we had to witness.”