A pregnant woman who had forcibly been placed on life support after a serious medical incident will finally be laid to rest. The situation raised serious questions about the rights of pregnant women in Florida and the rest of the nation, as the woman was kept alive against her advance wishes. The state of Texas, where the woman resided, has a law that overrides living wills if a pregnant woman suffers brain death.

The woman is thought to have suffered a pulmonary embolism in November. She was 14 weeks pregnant. She was transported to a Texas hospital and forcibly put on life support, despite her husband’s objection. Even though pregnant patients in Texas may include “do not resuscitate” orders in their living wills, hospitals are legally bound to keep the woman alive for the sake of her fetus.

Both the woman and her husband were well-versed in end-of-life issues because they were paramedics. They had discussed this type of situation in detail, and both decided that they did not want to be kept alive through machines. As a result, the man decided to sue the hospital. A judge decided that the woman was clinically dead under both medical standards and Texas law, so her child could not be born alive. The woman was finally removed from the ventilator after an eight-week fight.

Although living wills may seem airtight, many states have provisions that can actually take health decisions out of individuals’ or representatives’ hands. Those who are interested in drafting a living will may benefit from a consultation with a Florida attorney who can help them learn about special restrictions in their area. A probate attorney may help clients learn more about their legal rights and options for end-of-life care.

Luis E. Barreto