Would an Advance Directive have helped Marlise Munoz?

Erick & Marlise Munoz

The sad story of Erick and Marlise Munoz has been in the news quite a bit lately.  Marlise lapsed into a brain-dead state in late November.  Marlise and her husband had had conversations regarding such a situation and she had told him that she did not want to be kept alive by machines. 

Such a decision, when put in writing, is called an Advance Directive.  This tells your doctors and other health care workers what type of care you would like should you be unable to make medical decisions.  It can include such things as:

  • If you are brain dead, do you want to be kept alive by machines?
  • If your heart stops, do you want to be resuscitated?
  • If you stop breathing, do you want to be resuscitated?
  • If you are unable to make health care decisions, who is to have durable power of attorney to do so for you?

These are things to be considered when you are healthy and calm.

Marlise had only her husband to communicate her wishes as she had not formally indicated them in an Advance Directive.  Her situation was further complicated due to her 14 week pregnancy and the interpretation of Texas law.  Had Marlise had an Advance Directive, the document could have communicated for her instead of relying on her husband as he was dealing with all of the emotions of such a situation.

The Caring Connections web site (http://www.caringinfo.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3289) provides free Advance Directives and instructions for each state.

If you have an Advance Directive, a copy of it can be brought to the Student Health Services Health Information Services department to have it included in your medical record.  Student Health, however, is an out-patient facility and may not have access to your medical records in an emergency situation.  If your heart stops or you stop breathing within our building we will provide basic life support and first aid.  We will request emergency transport (911) and a copy of your Advance Directive will be given to the Emergency Squad to take to the hospital or it will be forwarded as soon as possible. 

Submitted by Tina Comston, M.Ed.

Reviewed by Mary Lynn Kiacz, M.D.