Outside the Bubble 1/30/14

Brain-Dead Patient Removed from Life Support

On Sunday, Jan 26, a Texas hospital removed 33-year-old Marlise Munoz from life support after a protracted legal battle between Munoz’s family and the state due to her pregnancy at the time of brain death. According to Reuters, Munoz had been on life support since Nov 26 of the previous year due to a suspected pulmonary embolism. She was 14 weeks pregnant at the time of her collapse. Munoz had wished not to be kept on artificial life support after brain death (Reuters, “Texas hospital ends life support for brain-dead pregnant woman,” 1.26.14).

Due to Munoz’s pregnancy, Texas statutes prohibited her removal from life support. Munoz’s husband’s legal action resulted in a court order to the hospital, which ultimately forced them to respect the family’s wishes.

The Munoz family looks forward to moving on after the close of a case which stirred conversation among bioethicists and families across the nation. Marlise Munoz leaves behind her husband, Erick, and a toddler son.

Ernest Machado, Munoz’s father, said, “All she is is a host for a fetus…I get angry with the state. What business did they have delving into these areas? Why are they practicing medicine up in Austin?” Mrs. Machado echoed his sentiments, telling the New York Times that “It’s not a matter of pro-choice and pro-life…It’s about a matter of our daughter’s wishes not being honored by the state of Texas” (The New York Times, “Pregnant, and Forced to Stay on Life Support,” 1.7.14).

A little more than a third of Americans have put their wishes about the end of their life into writing. The preferences for end-of-life treatment vary between demographics, with more than half of Hispanic individuals preferring life-saving treatments no matter the circumstances. The percentage of people giving “serious” thought to their end-of-life wishes has increased steadily since the 1990s as cases like Munoz’s and that of Terry Schiavo in 2005 are featured in the media (Pew Research Center, “5 facts about Americans’ views on life-and-death issues,” 1.7.14).

Both sides of the abortion debate have also followed this case closely, after some lawyers accused Munoz’s hospital of a narrow interpretation of Texas’ end-of-life statute for pro-life agendas.

In the end, Munoz and her family had their wishes respected and Munoz was removed from life support on Sunday, so her family can move forward with funeral arrangements and caring for her surviving son.


Violent Protests in Ukraine

Since Jan. 26, protests across Ukraine have spread from the capital of Kiev after opposition leaders rejected President Viktor F. Yanukovych’s offer to concede to some opposition leaders. Protests in Ukraine began in Kiev after the president failed to sign agreements with the European Union and instead reached out to Russia for aid.

Further, the nation has recently suffered severely under a struggling economy and restrictive laws were recently enacted against media and speech rights, including protest-related rights (The New York Times, “Ukraine Protests Spread as Overture Is Spurned,” 1.26.14).

Despite being partially outlawed by Ukrainian leadership, protests have become increasingly violent and rioters in Kiev have seized control of many government buildings. Several protester deaths have been reported, including confirmed deaths of protesters shot during riots.

According to The Washington Post, Ukraine’s political divide is primarily geographical and linguistic, with the southeastern sections speaking Russian and previously supporting President Yanukovych, and the northwestern portion leaning toward the West and the European Union and speaking Ukrainian (Washington Post, “This is the one map you need to understand Ukraine’s crisis,” 1.24.14).

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that while President Obama personally has remained mostly quiet on the issue, the White House spokesman Jay Carney denounced the violence in Ukraine. He blamed the government for the turmoil, calling the protester’s concerns “legitimate” and condemning the Ukrainian government for its unresponsiveness (Reuters, “White House Threatens Ukraine Sanctions If Violence Continues,” 1.23.14).

However, the opposition movement is not cohesive and consists of various minority parties whose specific demands are not always clear. While greater swaths of Ukraine destabilize, some call for aid to Ukraine’s rebels. However, little additional information, has come from U.S. leaders.

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