The Bioethical Dilemma Of The Mother’s DNR Revisited, And More Fetal Rights Ethics Confusion [UPDATED]

In Part 2 of the New York Times editorial board’s examination of the ethical and legal complexities of conflicting laws protecting the right to kill a fetus, the rights a fetus does have, and the mother’s rights, the question is posed:

Katherin Shuffield was five months pregnant when she was shot in 2008. She survived, but she lost the twins she was carrying. The gunman, Brian Kendrick, was charged with murdering them. Bei Bei Shuai was eight months pregnant and depressed when she tried to kill herself in 2010. She was rushed to the hospital and survived, but her baby died a few days later. Ms. Shuai was charged with murder.

Both cases are tragedies. But are Ms. Shuai and the man who shot Ms. Shuffield really both murderers?

It is an ethical question, a legal one and a logical one. Unfortunately, and typical of the entire series, the Times cannot play straight, or begin with basic principles. No, the questions is asked with an assumption in hand: the right to abortion must trump everything, even logic and justice The editors go on:

“Ms. Shuai is one of several hundred pregnant women who have faced criminal charges since 1973 for acts seen as endangering their pregnancies, according to National Advocates for Pregnant Women, which has completed the only peer-reviewed study of arrests and forced interventions on pregnant women in the United States. In many cases, the laws under which these women were charged were ostensibly written to protect them. Ms. Shuai, for instance, was charged under a law that was stiffened after the attack on Ms. Shuffield.

These criminal statutes are results of a tried-and-true playbook, part of a strategic campaign to establish fetal rights, reverse Roe v. Wade and recriminalize abortion. The sequence begins with anti-abortion groups seizing upon a tragic case in which a woman loses her pregnancy because of someone else’s actions. Public outcry then helps to strengthen a state feticide law that recognizes such lost pregnancies as murder or manslaughter. It’s a backdoor way of legally defining when life begins.”

In other words, the Times relies on ideology to duck an ethics conflict that points in a direction that radical abortion advocates don’t like, and thus refuse to acknowledge, because they don’t have a good answer for it. Here’s my answer: Yes, they are both murderers. If a mother who is gestating a child that she and her husband intend to have, and the child is killed by the act of a third party, a human being has been murdered, and charges are just. In the Sheffield case, her twins were within the protection of abortion limitations, though I would hold that this doesn’t matter, if they were both going to be delivered. If you don’t call this a murder, then a manic could perform an involuntary abortion on a 9 month’s  pregnant women, ripping her fetus out of her with murderous intent, and still face no murder charges as long as the mother recovered. Were it not that all obstacles to abortion must fall, even logical ones, no woman, no human being would call such an act anything but murder. Once any rights are assigned to the unborn at all, however, such logic is impolitic. Continue reading

The Strange Case Of The Brain Dead Mother-To-Be

In happier times; Mr. and Mrs. Munoz with their first child. And she really wanted her second child to die with her?

In happier times; Mr. and Mrs. Munoz with their first child. Did  she really want her second child to die with her? Is that a respectable request, if she did?

Dead people are causing a lot of anguish in the ethics world lately. First, a family wants to force a hospital to keep their brain-dead, which is to say, dead, daughter on life support just in case a miracle occurs, while the rest of society pays for it. Now, in Texas, we have a true brain death dilemma that once again highlights the problem with U.S. abortion law and ethics.

Texan mother Marlise Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant with her second child when she collapsed and later died from a blood clot in her lungs. Her parents and husband told the intensive care unit at  Fort Worth’s John Peter Smith Hospital to honor her stated wish not to be left on life support, but the hospital has so far refused to comply with their instructions.  Texas is one of 31  states that prohibit medical officials from cutting off life support to a pregnant patient. Now, more than a month after her brain stopped functioning, the late Marlise Munoz is still connected to life-support machines, and her unborn child is now in its 20th week of development. Continue reading