One of the most important reasons that pregnant women need to have an estate plan in place is because of the very real possibility of a complication arising as a result the pregnancy. A recent story out of Fort Worth, Texas highlights not only the importance of estate and incapacity planning, but also highlights the significant difference that exists between various state laws that address advance medical directives.
In late November, Erick Munoz discovered his pregnant wife unconscious on the floor of their home. Mr. Munoz, a paramedic, performed CPR but was unable to revive her. He then called 911 and had his wife transported to a Fort Worth area hospital. The physicians told him Marlise Munoz, his wife, had suffered a pulmonary embolism. The blood clot had cut off circulation to her brain and has effectively left her brain-dead. She has been in an intensive care unit in serious condition ever since. Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant with the couple’s second child at the time.
End-of-Life Decisions and Advance Directives
Marlise Munoz was also a paramedic, and she and her husband had discussed the issue of end-of-life treatment before. Her husband says that she did not wish to be kept on life sustaining support should she be in the type of state she’s currently in. Capable adults in the state of Texas can create advance medical directives that address the kind of care they do or don’t wish to receive should they find themselves in a similar medical emergency as Ms. Munoz. Though it does not appear as Ms. Munoz had an advance directive in place, her husband says that they had discussed the issue extensively.
However, Texas law is clear when it comes to advance directives and pregnant women. The law states that no one can withdraw or withhold any life-sustaining medical treatments from a pregnant woman even if that woman has an advance directive in place that states her choice to refuse it.
New York Advance Directives
Like the state of Texas, the state of New York also allows residents to create advance medical directives that address their medical choices. In the event of incapacity, these directives either speak directly for the person, or allow that person to appoint someone who will make medical decisions on his or her behalf.
Unlike Texas, New York’s advance directive laws do not specifically address the issue of pregnancy. If a similar case occurred in New York, it might fall to a state court to determine what should happen.
In any event, being clear about what your medical preferences are is important for every adult. If you have recently moved to, or away from, the state of New York and have advance medical directives, you should talk to a lawyer to determine if you need to update or modify your documents.