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On April 11th, The Bioethics Institute hosted Ana Iltis, PhD, the President-Elect for the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities, as she commented on the compelling nature of bioethics in the United States. The evening began with a screening of the award-winning short documentary “62 Days” (29 minutes)  which tells the story of a Texas emergency medical technician, Marlise Munoz, who dies from a brain embolism when she is 14 weeks pregnant. Texas law required the hospital to attach Mrs. Munoz to life-sustaining machinery, despite her written Advanced Directive indicating she did not want this and against the wishes of her husband and other immediate family. The film documents the public debate and court battle that unfolds over 62 days. Dr. Iltis used this as a spring board into reflection on American notions of autonomy, rights of women and fetuses, and the complicated nature of regulated social norms.

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Images (from right to left):  Harvard Medical School Center for Bioethics, "The Ethics of 'Making Babies,'" "When Marlise Died, The Battle for Her Life Began"

Ana Iltis


Image: "Dining Dilemmas Give WFU Students Food for Thought from Dining Room to Treatment Room


Ana S. Iltis, PhD is a Professor of Philosophy and the Director of the Center for Bioethics, Health, and Society at Wake Forest University. She is also the President-Elect of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities. She has a PhD in Philosophy from Rice University and is the cofounder and coeditor of Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics and a senior associate editor of The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy. Prior to joining the faculty of Wake Forest University, she was an Associate Professor of Health Care Ethics and PhD Program Director in the Center for Health Care Ethics at St. Louis University. She also taught research ethics in the Department of Medicine at Washington University in St Louis. Her work focuses predominantly on the ethical conduct of human research, and she is currently studying the ethical dilemmas of transplantation as well as implications of revising the 14-day limit on embryo research. 

The Lecture

In her lecture entitled, “Pregnant, Yet Dead: Autonomy and the Right to Life in the Strange Case of Marlise Muñoz,” Dr. Ana Iltis discusses a variety of ethical and legal considerations surrounding the case of Marlise Muñoz. Marlise Muñoz was kept on life support (against her previously indicated wishes) because she was 14 weeks pregnant at the time she was declared brain dead. She was kept on life support largely due to the Texas statute that requires pregnant women to remain on life sustaining treatment no matter the stipulations of their advanced directives. Because this statute predominantly determined the outcomes of the case, Dr. Iltis focuses her discussion on the ethical considerations and complexities of advanced directives and laws regarding end of life care. She goes into particular detail on the Texas Advanced Directives Act and addresses whether or not it should have applied to Marlise. She goes on to discuss the neurological criteria for brain death and how it applies to complicated cases wherein there may be exceptions or objections to this manner of declaring death. Dr. Iltis then addresses the role anticipated outcomes should play when deciding whether or not to maintain a deceased woman’s body for fetal gestation purposes, such as the potential for fetal anomalies and the likelihood of a live birth. Finally, she discusses the complexities and considerations that must be made when dealing with advanced directives and how to proceed when they are either absent or unclear.

Watch the full lecture here:


A Legal Perspective...


Image: "Jenny Gumer"

Jennifer Gumer is an attorney practicing in the litigation department of Gibson Dunn and Crutcher in Los angeles. She received her Juris Doctorate from New York University, School of Law and her Master’s in Bioethics from Columbia University. We interviewed Jennifer to hear her thoughts on the legal matters concerning Marlise’s case. 

You can watch the interview here!  —>

Emma Koeppen


Emma Koeppen is an English major at Loyola Marymount University. She plans to pursue a minor in Bioethics and attend law school upon graduation. She has a particular interest in the field of healthcare law and psychology, and hopes to be able to combine these interests in future career endeavors. She is an undergraduate intern for the Bioethics Institute.

Read Emma's thoughts on the lecture here

This page was created by LMU's Bioethics Institute's Craves fellow, Mia Loucks and the Institute's undergraduate intern, Emma Koeppen.

The Pregnancy Exclusion in Advance Directives: Are Women's Constitutional Rights Being Violated?

By Katie Rinkus

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