Texas has a law that prohibits the removal of mechanical life-support such as a ventilator from a pregnant
In November 2013, when Marlise Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant she was found unconscious in her Texas
home. With her husband and family in deep distress, they rushed her to a hospital where she was placed on a
machine to keep her alive. Soon thereafter, doctors at the hospital pronounced her brain dead. Her husband
and family eventually asked that she be removed from life support but Texas law prohibits removing a pregnant
woman from life support if it threatens the life of the fetus. A Texas Judge has now ordered that the 22 week
pregnant woman removed from life support, as requested by the family. For background, click here: LINK
(Links to an external site.).
For our week 4 discussion, answer the two following questions:
[1] From a utilitarian moral perspective of the greatest good of the greatest number and also the utilitarian
evaluative criteria of happiness versus suffering, explain the rightness or wrongness of a law that prohibits the
removal of a pregnant woman from life support. Also discuss the sad case of Marlise Munoz with someone
else for how that person feels about it and what moral concerns s/he has about this particular case. Do you
think that the husband of Marlise Munoz should only be granted his request to remove his wife because he has
concerns about indications of severe abnormalities in the developing fetus but not if the fetus were perfectly
normal? Explain.
[2] In terms utilitarian ethics, discuss the moral issues at stake in the famous so-called Trolley Problem as
related in the eText and also Michael Sandel’s Harvard lecture (LINK (Links to an external site.)), where “you
are beside a train track with a train headed down the track. However, on the track ahead are five people who
will all be killed if the train continues. But you also have access to a switch, and if you pull it the train will be
diverted onto another track where there is only one person” (eText p.36). Do you think that this type of moral
choice between the lesser of evils as in this Trolley Problem is realistic to what we might face in our everyday
lives or places of employment? Do you think there is such a thing as a moral duty to choose between the
lesser of evils? Why or why not? Can you give an example to support your point?

Sample Solution