Munoz Case

Neurological determination of death involves diagnosing death by neurological criteria commonly known as brain death. Brain death simply means that the brain has lost all its functions. Neurological death is considered as death (Ecker 2014).

In the Munoz case, May Marlise Munoz is announced neurologically, dead by the doctors but since she was fourteen weeks pregnant, the doctors kept her under life-sustaining treatment. However, her husband and other family members argued that it was against her will to be continually supported using machines. The hospital on its part argued that the law states that a pregnant woman should be life supported until the child is safe for delivery. The contention of how to legally determine who should be life supported when pregnant arise.

The attorney representing the hospital argues that the law was meant to protect the unborn baby from any decision maker who would terminate the child life together with the mother. The court in its ruling announced that the law does not apply to anyone announced dead (Ecker 2014). The unanswered question was when is neurological criterion of death taken as death and when not? It is agreeable that this law contravene the rights of a pregnant woman.  If a pregnant woman wishes to end her life support, the law prohibits her from doing so. . The Ethics Committee of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, for example, supports the position that pregnant women’s independent decisions should be valued, and any concerns about the effects of such decisions on fetal well-being should be understood within the framework of the women’s values.

In my opinion, I think justice was well served in this case. It was the wishes of May Marlise Munoz that she should never be life supported as stipulated by her family members. However, the unborn child also had a right to be born. In this case, the doctors had already announced that the child was not viable (Ecker 2014). In such a case, I do not see why she should continue being life supported though the law does not explain what should happen in such a case. It is my feeling the family received justice in this case.

The hospital was not justified in not honoring the surrogate requests for immediate removal of physiological support since the law does not apply to dead people. The same hospital had announced that Marlise Munoz was brain dead, and that the child she was carrying was not viable. (Hellerman, Morris & Smith, 2014).The hospital erred in trying to uphold a law that did not apply to a dead person.

My overall view of this case is that the pregnant woman has a right to make choices but if she makes a choice to end life support, then the right of the unborn baby is not upheld. The court did not emphasis on when the neurological criterion of death should be considered as death. The family members said it was against Marlise wish to be life supported but who could prove that (Hellerman, Morris & Smith, 2014). In times like this, whose rights should be given priority? I believe the child’s rights have priority given that the mother is already brain dead thus dead. The court declared that the law does not apply to a dead person, but brain death is considered as death. This means that all pregnant and brain dead women should not be life supported, but if the child is viable, failure to support the mother would be against the child’s right.



Ecker, J. L. (2014). Death in pregnancy—An American tragedy. New England Journal of Medicine, 370(10), 889-891.

Hellerman, C., Morris, J., & Smith, M. (2014, January 27). Brain-dead Texas woman taken off ventilator – Retrieved September 19, 2015, from

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