Sunday, January 26th, 2014
Marlise Munoz, a pregnant Texas woman who was at the center of a heated court battle over the meanings of “alive” and “dead,” especially when there is a fetus involved, has been removed from the ventilator that had sustained her since she was pronounced brain-dead in late November. The hospital had refused to abide by her family’s wishes that she be removed from the life-support equipment, citing Texas law that prohibits removing a pregnant woman from the machines. Last week, a judge ordered the hospital to comply with the family’s wishes. More from CNN.com:
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The devices that had kept Marlise Munoz’s heart and lungs working for two months were switched off about 11:30 a.m. Sunday, her family’s attorneys announced.
“May Marlise Munoz finally rest in peace, and her family find the strength to complete what has been an unbearably long and arduous journey,” the lawyers, Heather King and Jessica Janicek, said in a written statement.
Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant with the couple’s second child when her husband found her unconscious on their kitchen floor November 26. Though doctors had pronounced her brain dead and her family had said she did not want to have machines keep her body alive, officials at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth had said state law required them to maintain life-sustaining treatment for a pregnant patient.
Sunday’s announcement came two days after a judge in Fort Worth ordered the hospital to remove any artificial means of life support from Munoz by 5 p.m. Monday. Earlier Sunday, the hospital said it intended to comply with that order.
“The past eight weeks have been difficult for the Munoz family, the caregivers and the entire Tarrant County community, which found itself involved in a sad situation,” a hospital statement said. “JPS Health Network has followed what we believed were the demands of a state statute.”
The hospital acknowledged Friday that Munoz, 33, had been brain dead since November 28 and that the fetus she carried was not viable. Her husband, Erick Munoz, had argued that sustaining her body artificially amounted to “the cruel and obscene mutilation of a deceased body” against her wishes and those of her family.
Thursday, January 9th, 2014
A Texas woman who collapsed and was declared brain dead after suffering an apparent blood clot in her lungs is remaining on life support despite her family’s wishes, the hospital citing Texas law prohibiting removing a pregnant woman from the machines. Thirty-three year-old Marlise Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant at the time of her collapse. More from The New York Times:
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Mrs. Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant, the doctor said, and Texas is one of more than two dozen states that prohibit, with varying degrees of strictness, medical officials from cutting off life support to a pregnant patient.
More than a month later, Mrs. Munoz remains connected to life-support machines on the third floor of the I.C.U., where a medical team monitors the heartbeat of the fetus, now in its 20th week of development. Her case has become a strange collision of law, medicine, the ethics of end-of-life care and the issues swirling around abortion — when life begins and how it should be valued.
“It’s not a matter of pro-choice and pro-life,” said Mrs. Munoz’s mother, Lynne Machado, 60. “It’s about a matter of our daughter’s wishes not being honored by the state of Texas.”
Mrs. Munoz’s father, Ernest Machado, 60, a former police officer and an Air Force veteran, put it even more bluntly. “All she is is a host for a fetus,” he said on Tuesday. “I get angry with the state. What business did they have delving into these areas? Why are they practicing medicine up in Austin?”
Mrs. Munoz’s parents said they wanted to see the law overturned, but they have not sought any legal action against the hospital, though they have not ruled it out either.
The hospital maintains that it is following the law, although several experts in medical ethics said they believed the hospital was misinterpreting it. A crucial issue is whether the law applies to pregnant patients who are brain-dead as opposed to those in a coma or a vegetative state. The law, first passed by the Texas Legislature in 1989 and amended in 1999, states that a person may not withdraw or withhold “life-sustaining treatment” from a pregnant patient.
Mr. and Mrs. Machado said the hospital had made it clear to them that their daughter was brain-dead, but hospital officials have declined to comment on Mrs. Munoz’s care and condition, creating uncertainty over whether the hospital has formally declared her brain-dead.
A spokeswoman for the J.P.S. Health Network, the publicly financed hospital district in Tarrant County that runs the 537-bed John Peter Smith Hospital, defended the hospital’s actions. “In all cases, J.P.S. will follow the law as it applies to health care in the state of Texas,” the spokeswoman, Jill Labbe, said. “Every day, we have patients and families who must make difficult decisions. Our position remains the same. We follow the law.”
Friday, September 6th, 2013
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is on track to sicken more people in Texas than have been affected in the past 50 years, prompting health officials in the state to urge that parents vaccinate their children–and make sure their own vaccines are up to date. More from CNN:
The threat grows when one considers that scientists estimate 10 cases of pertussis, popularly known as whooping cough, occur for every one that is reported, she said in a telephone interview, adding, “We’re clearly having an epidemic.”
So far this year, Texas has tallied nearly 2,000 cases, two of them fatal, and the total is expected to exceed the 3,358 recorded in 2009, when the last such outbreak occurred, the Department of State Health Services said.
There does not appear to be any single explanation for the spike, said Chris Van Deusen, a spokesman for the department. “It really looks like several things working together,” he said in a telephone interview, noting that outbreaks tend to occur in cycles. “We see a peak and a lot of people will be exposed and develop natural immunity,” leading to fewer cases, he said. “Then it wears off and it (the number of cases) will go up again.”
The numbers are a little squishy in the outbreak, in which cases have not been focused on any one area, he said. Awareness has increased and diagnostic tests have improved in recent years, meaning doctors may be identifying more cases than they used to, he said.
But there is no debate about the seriousness of the disease. As many as two in 100 adolescents and five in 100 adults with pertussis are hospitalized or have complications, including pneumonia and death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The federal health agency recommends that women get the vaccine during each pregnancy, ideally between the 27th and 36th week — since an estimated 30% to 40% of babies who contract whooping cough get it from their mothers — and that their children undergo a series of five pertussis vaccinations beginning at 2 months of age.
That first shot is to be followed by injections at 4 months and 6 months, and boosters at 15 to 18 months and again at 4 to 6 years of age so that children’s immunity will be robust during the first months of life, when they are most vulnerable. Both of the Texas fatalities were younger than 2 months.
“We want to make sure that they are getting the immunizations on that schedule so that the waning immunity won’t be as much of an issue,” Van Deusen said.
Image: Child receiving vaccine, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, February 27th, 2013
If a woman is told she can’t breastfeed in a public place in Texas, she may soon be able to sue the organization or person that dismissed her, if a new law passes the state’s legislature. The law comes in the wake of a 2011 incident in which nursing mom Michelle Hickman was asked to leave a Target store despite a company policy that is supposed to allow breastfeeding in any spot in the store. Hickman’s experience inspired a nationwide “nurse-in” at Target stores and other locations. More on the new law from The Dallas Observer:
On Friday, [state Rep. Jessica] Farrar filed a bill that would allow mothers booted from a public place for nursing can sue and collect damages from whomever did the booting, be it an individual, business, government or other entity.
Advocates have already won acknowledgment that breastfeeding is the optimal way for newborns to get nutrition and that the practice is something to be promoted. But breastfeeding isn’t yet fully a right, not legally anyways.
Take the case of Donnica Venters, a Houston woman who said she was fired for asking to pump breast milk while at work. She and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued, only to lose in federal court last February.
“Lactation is not pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition,” Judge Lynn Hughes wrote in her decision. That means there is no cause of action for “lactation discrimination” under federal law.
That looks unlikely to change anytime soon, but Farrar’s bill would give women like Venters some recourse at the state level.
This issue also came up online in 2012, when a Facebook nurse-in followed the social networking site removing photos of breastfeeding mothers.
Image: Breastfeeding baby, via Shutterstock
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Monday, January 21st, 2013
Deborah Mitchell, a Texas mom who is raising her two teenagers without religious faith, has sparked a national online conversation in which parents are vehemently defending their views that children should be raised with religion, without it, or with whatever works best for any individual family. Mitchell’s blog, and a recent online article, elevated the debate at a time when one in five Americans is unaffiliated with a religious tradition. More from CNN:
This week, she gained a whole new audience and the reassurance that she’s not alone. Her essay on CNN iReport, “Why I Raise My Children Without God,” drew 650,000 page views, the second highest for an iReport, and the most comments of any submission on the citizen journalism platform.
“When my son was around 3 years old, he used to ask me a lot of questions about heaven. Where is it? How do people walk without a body? How will I find you? You know the questions that kids ask.
For over a year, I lied to him and made up stories that I didn’t believe about heaven. Like most parents, I love my child so much that I didn’t want him to be scared. I wanted him to feel safe and loved and full of hope. But the trade-off was that I would have to make stuff up, and I would have to brainwash him into believing stories that didn’t make sense, stories that I didn’t believe either.”
Mitchell posted the essay detailing her seven reasons for raising her children without God on CNN iReport because she felt there wasn’t anyone else speaking for women or moms like her. As she sees it, children should learn to do the right things because they will feel better about themselves, not because God is watching. She asks questions like: If there was a good, all-knowing, all-powerful God, why would he allow murders, child abuse and torture?
Lots of people disagreed with her. Tons. They flagged her iReport as inappropriate and criticized CNN for linking to her essay on the CNN.com homepage. But there were plenty of others who wrote thoughtful rebuttals, respectfully disagreeing with Mitchell while not foisting their own beliefs on her. Take, for instance, a Methodist dad, who said faith can be hard to nail down, but “not to avail ourselves of the power of something we don’t completely understand is silly.”
Others said Mitchell presented a simplistic view of religion.
“Presentations such as these seem to ignore a substantial percentage of believers – well-educated, compassionate, liberal folk, Christian and non-Christian alike – who, I feel, are able to worship without being blind to the realities of the world, or without lying to their children about their understanding of these complexities,” wrote commenter RMooradian. “I’ll be raising my children with God, but I understand those who cannot!”
But Mitchell’s essay also struck a chord with hundreds of like-minded parents raising children in a world where lack of belief puts them in the minority, often even in their own family.
“Thank you for writing this. I agree with everything you say, but I’m not brave enough to tell everyone I know this is how I feel,” a woman who called herself an “agnostic mommy of two in Alabama” posted in the comments. “Thank you for your bravery and letting me know I’m not alone.”
Image: Woman typing, via Shutterstock
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