The Strange Case of Marlise Munoz and John Peter Smith Hospital

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There are many ethical paradigms through which humans find guidance and justification for their own actions. In the case of contractarianism, citizens of a state are entitled to human rights, considered to be unalienable, and legal rights, which are both protected by the state. As Spinello says, “The problem with most rights-based theories is that they do not provide adequate criteria for resolving practical disputes when rights are in conflict” (14). One case that supports Spinello is the case of Marlise Munoz, a brain-dead pregnant thirty-three year old, who was wrongly kept on life support for nearly two months at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas. Misinterpretation of the Texas Advance Directives Act by John Peter Smith Hospital led to the violation of the contractarian paradigm. Although the hospital was following the directive in order to maintain legal immunity for its hospital staff, the rights of the family were violated along with the medical fundamental principle to “first, do no harm.” First of all, despite the wishes of Marlise Munoz she continued to receive the help of machines and hospital staff at John Peter Smith Hospital even after being declared dead. Marlise was found on her kitchen floor after more than an hour without oxygen on November 26, 2013. Arriving at the hospital, the staff placed Marlise on life support in accordance with section 166.049 of the Texas Advance Directives Act. The directive states, “A person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient.” Following her passing on Thanksgiving, “Munoz and his wife’s parents told the hospital that Marlise, herself a veteran paramedic, had made it clear to everyone she didn’t want to be ... ... middle of paper ... .... “The Strange Case of Marlise Munoz and John Peter Smith Hospital.” n.p.. 28 Jan. 2014. Web. 08 Feb. 2014. Kemp, Joe. “Fetus of pregnant, brain-dead Texas woman ‘distinctly abnormal’: lawyers.” NYDailyNews. New York Daily News. 23 Jan. 2014. Web. 08 Feb. 2014. Mclean, Paul C. “Texas is keeping a dead woman on life support despite her family’s wishes.” the guardian. The Guardian. 10 Jan. 2014. Web. 08 Feb. 2014. “Experts weigh in on law keeping brain-dead pregnant woman alive.” CBS News. The Associated Press. 03 Jan. 2014. Web. 08 Feb. 2014. Spinello, Richard A. Cyberethics. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2014. Print. Melanson, Glen. “How the Contractualist Account of Preconception Negligence Undermines Prenatal Reproductive Autonomy.” Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 38.4 (Aug. 2013): 420-425. Health Reference Center Academic. Web. 09 Feb. 2014.

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