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Her name is Marlise Munoz. She suffered what is believed to have been a sudden brain embolism. She died on her garage floor and was dead for an indeterminate amount of time before she was found and rushed to the hospital. It was too late to save her life,
but, in her cooling body, a tiny collection of cells had been forming into a 14 week-old fetus. Marlise and her husband, Erick, were delighted about a new baby to join their toddler, but it was not to be. What followed was a nightmare as Erick discovered that the hospital felt bound by state law to keep life support going in order to save the nonviable fetus. Predictably, it became big news. And suddenly, her medical right to privacy was over and her case became public fodder. Finally, a court ruled that a hospital cannot call a dead person their patient, and the hospital complied with the order to cease life support. Marlise's body was released to Erick Munoz for burial, after several heart-wrenching weeks of publicity and public spectacle.

I cross-posted the following on my Facebook status this morning because as much as I hate to admit it, we're already in dystopia. And I'm scared.

I shouldn't know that her name is Marlise. I shouldn't know that her never-to-be-born fetus would be named Nicole by her grieving father as he finally laid her to rest, or that Nicole was so deformed and underdeveloped that her legs were mangled and it was impossible to tell by sonogram (I'm sure, transvaginal) whether or not she was a boy or a girl until she was expelled. I should not know that Marlise's dead body was probed with such a transvaginal wand or that Nicole had severe water on the brain and that she had probably been deprived of oxygen long enough when her mother died of a brain embolism that, had her mother's body been found 10 minutes later, nobody would have denied they were both already gone.

But I do know these things, and I hate that I do. I hate knowing that I share the most intimate details of this family's private medical business. I hate reading about it and I hate following it and I hate having a political opinion about it.

Because it's none of my business.

It's not the media's business.

It's not the state GOP's business.

It's not the religious right's business.

The cheap political grandstanding which has surrounded Marlise's and Nicole's right to die when it was their time has stolen their lives from us. It has tainted their memories with the forever hue of controversy. Nothing either of them ever did or were, will be recalled without the mention of the legal case against a hospital attorney who misinterpreted the law and created these headlines out of her death.

And that's another kind of theft, and another kind of death. Marlise's life was stolen from us. Her memory. Her smile. Her dreams and the fact that she dedicated her life to saving others. Her love for her husband and child and her family. Her favorite book or movie. We will never know any of the things which made her Marlise.

I put myself in Marlise's position for a moment, although I never can, and I am utterly horrified that this can happen in America today. I find myself vowing to fight even harder for the basic right to be able to navigate myself, my family, and my womb through our private medical needs without the government outlawing the best medical practices available, using the best science and my Constitutional rights, and not some Bronze-age Abrahamic religion misinterpretation, as their guide. Depressingly enough, all four Texas GOP members gunning for office in a recent debate vowed to close what they consider to be a loophole by passing a law which says that any dead pregnant woman must be sustained in order to save the fetus.

Where are my heroes, Texas men? Will you stand for my rights the way Erick Munoz stood for Marlise and Nicole? Or will you allow the same creepy men who plastered Marlise's family business all over Fox & Friends to continue to control Texas women? What will you do when they come for your wife or daughter with those same laws that put the Munoz family through this living, undead hell? Will you stop thinking of these issues as simply "women's issues," then? Will you vote with us when it hits home for you? Or is this tragic story close enough for you to see the danger we've been telling you we women of Texas are facing?

Stand with us. Husbands, fathers, brothers, cousins, friends. We can gain back our medical rights, but we have to do it with a solid Democratic win in Texas.

Stand with us.
Stand with Marlise and Nicole.
Stand with Erick Munoz.


Originally posted to Love and Kisses on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 12:47 PM PST.

Also republished by Kitchen Table Kibitzing and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Hipaa is not really relevant here. (6+ / 0-)

    you do not know really much about the patient but have learned a few things about her family.  She has not been stolen from us because she never belonged to us. She was her own person and the love of the family which now needs to grieve. It is not about us.

    •  My feeling is that we know far more (32+ / 0-)

      about her condition and the condition of her fetus than anyone outside of her family and doctors have the right to know. Thanks for your opinion and reply. I appreciate your perspective.  

      Faith, as you say, there's small choice in rotten apples." (The Taming Of The Shrew; W. Shakespeare)

      by LibbyLuLu on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 01:07:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  This was turned into a media circus because (7+ / 0-)

        the Hospital filed a motion to keep her around.  That is where it went from HIPAA private to very public.  The doctors HAD to testify in open court about Her and her fetus's condition.

        That is where the media got their information from.

        "Death is the winner in any war." - Nightwish/Imaginareum/Song of myself.

        by doingbusinessas on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 03:19:50 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks Libby. Know that Walmart breaches Hippa (3+ / 0-)

        on a daily basis.  According to a friend who is a an employee, ask for a medical leave of absence with a Doctor's letter and you will be subjected to an inquisition and fishing expedition regarding any and all previous medical history;  and if you fail to comply, your Doctor's request will be summarily denied.  It is just another example of Walmart's complete lawlessness.

        GOP Wars against: Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Immigrants, Mexicans, Blacks, Gays, Women, Unions, Workers, Unemployed, Voters, Elderly, Kids, Poor, Sick, Disabled, Dying, Lovers, Kindness, Rationalism, Science, Sanity, Reality.

        by SGWM on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 12:06:39 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  That's crazy. And sadly no right to class-actions. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          BlackSheep1, SGWM, Nautical Knots

          Remember when WalMart went up against women's right to file a class action suit for systematic and widespread discrimination? Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia didn't recuse himself, even though his son Eugene Scalia works for the law firm that represented WalMart in front of the Supreme Court. He declared that since his son wasn't working on the case, it wasn't a conflict of interest that he would be asked to hear a case from his son's employer in an impartial manner. It only just so happened that he voted with WalMart, anyway. No conflict of interest at all or even appearance of conflict of interest. Right?

          Faith, as you say, there's small choice in rotten apples." (The Taming Of The Shrew; W. Shakespeare)

          by LibbyLuLu on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 06:16:50 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  HIPAA Breaches (6+ / 0-)

      The hospital / medical center is prohibited from disclosing any protected health information unless it falls under treatment, payment or operational activities, and there are guidelines all the way for these.

      It is likely the case that what has been disclosed came through the media, who obtained it through court records.

      The family can request an accounting of who electronically accessed the patient's medical records to see if anyone who was not involved with these operations for this patient has accessed them.

      HIPAA has oversight by the Office of Civil Rights through the Department of Health and Human Services, and it is taken very seriously at that level.

      Old Clothes in a New Time

      by Archival Footage on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 04:41:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Exactly - HIPAA likely wasn't breached (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bluefin, OrganicChemist, LibbyLuLu

      Legal proceedings are explicitly allowed under HIPAA - that is, you can disclose the minimum necessary information in response to a lawsuit or other legal proceeding (for example, hospitals can report unexplained gunshot wounds to authorities if there is reason to believe they are the result of a crime).

      As another commenter notes, HIPAA also applies only to healthcare institutions and the contractors who work for them. Thus, any information released by the family or by the family's lawyers, is not covered by HIPAA.

      However, that does not mean this wasn't a travesty. Had the hospital not insisted on applying this ridiculous law in this clearly unnecessary case, we would know nothing.  

      A government that denies gay men the right to bridal registry is a fascist state - Margaret Cho

      by CPT Doom on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 07:34:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  yes and no (10+ / 0-)

    Ideally, we should never have known, but the actions of the hospital were horrific & brought this to the public realm.  I think some sunshine shamed them into not appealing their loss in court.  How bad would secret court proceedings have been?

  •  The Catch-22 (4+ / 0-)

      I am always appalled when a medical decision is decided in the court.  
        Talking in the abstract, this case may be a way to discuss why the current regime in TX needs to be removed and this law revoked / removed.    
         Alternatively, in the proper context this case could help, if talking to a 'younger' generation.  

  •  Beautiful and moving. (10+ / 0-)

    The sad part is that many fundy men believe that women's worth lies solely in their ability to bear children, that sex is only for pro-creation, and that a blob of tissue matters more than the already born woman.  It is hwy they hate contraception--it gives women autonomy . It's why they believe real rape victims never get pregnant. It's why they oppose legislation to help women escape abusive relationships--God said women must submit to their owners--i.e. fathers and husbands.  We are not people to them, just incubators.

    The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

    by irishwitch on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 03:34:06 PM PST

  •  HIPPA does not apply to the family, friends, (6+ / 0-)

    politicians, holier than thous, or lawyers who discussed this medical matter with non hospital/medical folk.

    The family went on TV for pete's sake.  

    HIPPA only applies to the hospital and its personnel.  So unless there is evidence that there was an actual HIPPA breach by those who are under the purview of HIPPA then it is not an actor on this stage.

    If I do a routine blood chemistry panel on Obama and tell any medical person who has no "need to know" or any non medical person that I just drew the POTUS' blood.  That is a breach of HIPPA and I could go to jail.  I would certainly be fired and be unhirable if I did that.

    Obama can go straight out the door and tell the world, or Michelle can or his spokes person can.  HIPPA does not apply to them.

  •  Thanks! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I appreciate the education, and your thoughtful responses.

    Faith, as you say, there's small choice in rotten apples." (The Taming Of The Shrew; W. Shakespeare)

    by LibbyLuLu on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 05:13:33 PM PST

  •  who did this serve? (6+ / 0-)

    A young pregnant woman died suddenly leaving her husband and child bereft, and worse yet--the survivors were tormented by this obscene drama. How is this 'pro-life'? How is this moral?

    •  What's scary... (4+ / 0-) that at a recent Republican candidate forum, all the candidates (for governor, I think) were falling over themselves about the need to fix the law so that they would still be keeping that poor woman's corpse warm in the hospital for the sake of saving a non-viable fetus.

      Mind you, none of these jackasses would be volunteering to take care of that poor child if it actually survived childbirth -- at that point Eric Munoz would presumably just be another deadbeat single parent if he needed help...

      Political Compass: -6.75, -3.08

      by TexasTom on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 01:27:14 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for republishing! (0+ / 0-)

    Kitchen Table Kibitzing shout-out, thanks!

    Faith, as you say, there's small choice in rotten apples." (The Taming Of The Shrew; W. Shakespeare)

    by LibbyLuLu on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 05:52:16 PM PST

  •  This was indeed a travesty. (6+ / 0-)

    To consider how RW forces descend on a family and forget just who it is they are fighting for.

    Of course, the newspapers and news media in general wants to pull in an audience, and if it takes the sacrificing of a family's need to  grieve and to find comfort as best they can, well, the news media usually chooses to ignore that family's need.

    The same thing does happen in reverse, when a family decides not to further a child's suffering and follow yet again, more medical protocols, but instead let the child slip off into the other realm.

    I remember a case in Chicago, where the Jehovah Witness' parents had decided not to bring their daughter in for a transfusion.

    The headlines proclaimed these parents "ignorant" and "religious fanatics" at best, and "child killers" at worst. What parent wouldn't see to it that their child got a blood transfusion if doing that would save her life? How could these monstrous parents live with themselves? Doesn't such a  case really get you angry? The headlines and news stories stopped just a tiny bit short of asking readers to go out there and deal the parents some vigilante justice.

    The facts in that case, that only the RW news papers mentioned, was that the parents knew their daughter would need not one transfusion but perhaps twenty such work ups. That the little girl was already tired and sick and beyond wanting to live. And that the chances, in any case, were not all that rosy, transfusions or not. In fact, the girl's chances of living for another 18 months, even if she had all the needed tests and transfusions and procedures, stood at only 15%.

    "We loved our daughter more than God, despite our religion, despite our devotion to being Jehovah Witnesses. We would defy that religion to save our daughter. In fact, we had already brought her in for several blood transfusions. So what we were doing wasn't choosing to end her life, on account of some type of devotion to JW teachings.

    "Instead, after already seeing her be endlessly sick and enduring several years of modern medicine, we wanted to honor our daughter. We felt that she needed us to accept that she was simply a little girl too sick to make it, no matter how many tests and procedures the modern medical people had planned for her. Instead we chose to give her what she wanted: as she deserved to have her last bit of time with us spent peacefully."

    That statement would not have garnered the news media the audience they felt this story "deserved."

  •  kos - #FRONT PAGE THIS. n/t (0+ / 0-)

    "I like paying taxes...with them, I buy Civilization"

    by Angie in WA State on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 10:54:00 PM PST

  •  For the record, I believe (0+ / 0-)

    the intials HIPPA stand for the Hospital Information and Patient Protection Act. It might be helpful to know that hospitals also have to comply with another act, called M-TALA which regulates a lot of what hospitals have to do, such as what if a person collapses in the parking lot, within say 50 feet or so, and has a medical emergency. I'll leave that one to the lawyers o expound upon. Suffice it to say that the hospital has to navigate a complex field of regulations.
        That said, your basic point is well taken. It is a matter of public interest, but the fundies can really amp up their political agenda by focusing attention on case histories that support their political point of view.
         The darker side of the coin is while the GOP noise machine will use every personal detail if it suits their agenca, when it comes to explaining what they are really doing to accomplish their agenda, like the Koch Brothers meetings and funding events, or more basically, the voter suppression scandal during the Gore vs Bush Jr. election, suddenly everything a secret, and has to be covered up, and hidden from the press.
          The press could do us all a service if they concentrated their energies on covering the issues, instead of the ideological sideshows which are meant to distract and divide. Remember Dan Rather?

    •  nearly, jfdunphy. But not quite: (0+ / 0-)
      The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA; Pub.L. 104–191, 110 Stat. 1936, enacted August 21, 1996) was enacted by the United States Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996. It has been known as the Kennedy–Kassebaum Act or Kassebaum-Kennedy Act after two of its leading sponsors.[1][2] Title I of HIPAA protects health insurance coverage for workers and their families when they change or lose their jobs. Title II of HIPAA, known as the Administrative Simplification (AS) provisions, requires the establishment of national standards for electronic health care transactions and national identifiers for providers, health insurance plans, and employers.[3]
      This act gives the right to privacy to individuals from age 12 through 18. The provider must have a signed disclosure from the affected before giving out any information on provided health care to anyone, including parents.[4][5]


      Jump up ^ Atchinson, Brian K.; Fox, Daniel M. (May/June 1997). "The Politics Of The Health Insurance Portability And Accountability Act". Health Affairs 16 (3): 146–150.
      Jump up ^ 104th Congress, 1st Session, S.1028
      Jump up ^ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
      Jump up ^ "Ruling on teenage abortions won't affect California - yet.". San Francisco Chronicle. June 26, 1990.
      Jump up ^ "President Clinton Extols New Rules to Ensure Medical Privacy". Los Angeles CQ Press. 2008.

      Yep, Wikipedia. But I cite the sources here.

      LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

      by BlackSheep1 on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 06:49:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Good clarification, thanks (0+ / 0-)

        I might have a mental block about the word portability, because some facilities have made the proper transfer of information to caregivers in the chain of custody ANYTHING but portable. Some places are very, very strict, and other places have learned how to navigate more comfortably withing the parameters of the law. Suffice it to say that sometimes information that the patient really needs to have transferred to another provider, gets hung up in the process, and there is inadequate information at the time you need it, say a visit to the orthopedist where it's difficult to get the latest X-ray (film or disk--and you got the old disk by mistake)  or labs on time, so it's a wasted visit, but you're not sick enough for first priority, so you get dumped back somewhere in the line to see your doc. And if you have to see other docs, the juggling of appointments and transport schedules begins anew. In some cases giving the germs or illness a time advantage to work against the patient's health.
           Heaven help the patient whose insurance information changes, in the meantime.
             The law makes things sound so definite, but in practice trying to carry it out it's a very living thing, just as, say, the first and fourth amendments.

  •  What's depressing (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This all seems to have been caught up in "pro-life" politics, where precise ideological correctness overrides any concern for, well, someone's life not to mention obvious factual reality.  This is how political officers worked it through in the era of Stalin, and this is how Pol Pot got to where he did.

    C'mon.  This doesn't involve abortion or contraception.  It's a tragedy.  Do you think the husband really wanted to pull the plug on his wife and daughter-to-be?  Do you think doctors like to lose patients this way?  This isn't a "right to life" issue except in the fevered minds of the religious loons who wanted another cadaver in their hall of horrors next to Terry Schiavo, never mind what it does to the heads of her surviving family.

  •  It is scary, and heartless. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Carol in San Antonio

    And it could happen to any one of us. I'll do my best not to keel over pregnant, but who can make any guarantees? The hospital bills for the additional 8 weeks this was in litigation must be astronomical. I hate the thought of putting my poor husband and kids through that kind of grief and hardship. David Dewhurst isn't going to swoop in and help my family keep a roof over their heads while I incubate a religious victory for the state, literally, over my dead body.

    This poor guy. Erick Munoz. His poor little boy who just lost his beloved Mommy and future little sister. Who on this green earth would call this God's plan? And why would I want to support any religion that does! We need a clean sweep in Texas and we're fighting huge odds. Any help we can get from our partners would be much appreciated. Our medical records shouldn't have to be dragged into courts or the media in order to justify our medical choices simply because they happen to involve a uterus, womb, vagina, Fallopian tubes, or breasts. Well, unless I care to enlarge those, which can be done at any one of thousands of storefront clinics in my city.

    I would be horrified and furious if my husband were subjected to the same loss of medical rights in Texas that I and my daughter have undergone in only the last two years. If someone came after your right to the best medical practices, I would stand shoulder-to-shoulder and side-by-side to protect you from the people whose religious fervor sought to limit your resources in an age where any number of modern miracles are available to you to treat what ails you from erectile dysfunction to male-pattern baldness to getting or removing that bad tribal tattoo. I'd be right there with you, waving a sign, voting and petitioning and calling your governor and Tweeting the living heck out of it. But it still feels like we're fighting this one alone, without our partners. And that's what's missing in a clean sweep this November. It's going to be up to us to bring the point home and motivate more men to vote with us.

    Thank you all, for reading. The HiPAA information is wonderful and informative and I love that my sleepy, lame Marx brothers joke took wing and brought me new knowledge. Thank you, all. I'm grateful for your time.

    Faith, as you say, there's small choice in rotten apples." (The Taming Of The Shrew; W. Shakespeare)

    by LibbyLuLu on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 06:03:12 PM PST

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