Immersed in busy Thanksgiving preparations in 2013, Ernie and Lynne Machado received a phone call from their son-in-law, Erick Muñoz, that forever shook their world. Something was wrong with their daughter Marlise. The family rushed to the hospital only to discover that 33 year-old Marlise had suffered a pulmonary embolism and, two days later, the hospital declared her brain-dead.
Marlise had previously worked as a paramedic and truly understood the fragility of life. She had many conversations with her husband Erick about what decisions would be made in the event of an emergency and her answer was crystal clear – no intrusive end-of-life interventions. Marlise’s parents, Lynne and Ernie, stood united with Erick in asserting that their daughter’s wishes were to be respected. Together, they decided to forego medical intervention.
But in the midst of their agony, more shock and heartache was yet to come. Their request to remove Marlise from life support was refused– despite her previously expressed wishes – simply due to her 14-week pregnancy. Texas law currently forbids doctors and hospitals from withdrawing or withholding medical interventions from a terminally-ill pregnant patient, even if she and her family object. As a result, Marlise was denied the right given to every other Texan: the right to determine her own end-of-life care. Texas law forced her doctors to provide treatment that was of absolutely no benefit to her and despite her family’s objections.
Eventually, after an intense drawn-out legal battle, Marlise was finally put to rest. Sadly, for the family, the delayed decision felt like a half-hearted reprieve instead of true justice. The same law that treated Marlise as a second-class citizen is still on the books, which means this tragic situation could still happen to another family and her loved ones. Every Texan should be treated equally under the law. That’s why today, we stand with Marlise’s family in their support of legislation at the State Capitol. Touched by her story and wanting to protect other Texans from suffering such harmful government intrusion, State Rep. Elliott Naishtat (D-Austin) drafted and filed HB 3183, called “Marlise’s Law.”
“Marlise’s Law” would repeal the pregnancy exclusions in sections 166.049 and 166.098 of the Texas Health and Safety Code barring pregnant women from making their own decisions about end-of-life care. Every Texan deserves the autonomy to make profoundly personal decisions regarding end-of-life medical interventions. Please join the ACLU of Texas and our partners in ensuring that no woman or family will suffer the indignity of being treated as second-class citizens and will be afforded the dignity and respect they deserve.