The Cruelest Pregnancy

Frank Bruni

WHAT would Marlise Munoz have made of all of this?

We’ll never know. She can no longer form words. Can no longer form thoughts. It’s arguable that we shouldn’t even be referring to a “she,” to a “her,” because if she’s brain-dead, as her family has consistently said, then she meets the legal criteria for death in all 50 states, and what’s been tethered to machines in a hospital in Fort Worth for the last seven weeks isn’t exactly a mother. It’s an artificially maintained ecosystem, an incubator for a fetus that has somehow been given precedence over all other concerns: the pain of Marlise’s husband and parents; their wishes to put an end to this; their best guess about what her desires would have been; her transformation, without any possibility of her consent, into a mere vessel.

“A host,” her father, Ernest Machado, called her in an interview with Manny Fernandez of The Times. He used equally chilling language to describe her stillness and the rubbery feel of her skin, saying that she reminded him of “a mannequin.”

Ben Wiseman

Is her fate really what we mean when we speak of “valuing life” or “the sanctity of life,” to summon two phrases tossed around too quickly and simplistically? It seems to me that several lives are being devalued in the process, and that while there are no happy outcomes here, there’s also no sense or dignity on the chilling road that this Texas hospital is taking us down.

In late November, Marlise, 33, was found unconscious on the kitchen floor by her husband, Erick. She had apparently suffered a pulmonary embolism. At the hospital, according to Erick’s subsequent statements, it was determined that she was brain-dead, and he requested that she be disconnected from the machines that keep her vital organs functioning. He and she had both worked as paramedics and had discussed such end-of-life decisions, he said, and so he knew that she wouldn’t have wanted any extraordinary measures taken. The woman he loved was gone. It was time to come to bitter terms with that, and to say goodbye.

Hospital officials, supposedly acting on behalf of the state, won’t let him. They went ahead with extraordinary measures, because Marlise was 14 weeks pregnant, and while that fell well within the window when abortion is legal, a Texas law compels hospitals to provide life support for terminally ill patients with fetuses developing inside them.

Read more at The New York Times

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Where Does Facebook Stop and the NSA Begin?

Illustration: Dale Stephanos

“That social norm is just something that has evolved over time” is how Mark Zuckerberg justified hijacking your privacy in 2010, after Facebook imperiously reset everyone’s default settings to “public.” “People have really gotten comfortable sharing more information and different kinds.” Riiight. Little did we know that by that time, Facebook (along with Google, Microsoft, etc.) was already collaborating with the National Security Agency’s PRISM program that swept up personal data on vast numbers of internet users.

In light of what we know now, Zuckerberg’s high-hat act has a bit of a creepy feel, like that guy who told you he was a documentary photographer, but turned out to be a Peeping Tom. But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised: At the core of Facebook’s business model is the notion that our personal information is not, well, ours. And much like the NSA, no matter how often it’s told to stop using data in ways we didn’t authorize, it just won’t quit. Not long after Zuckerberg’s “evolving norm” dodge, Facebook had to promise the feds it would stop doing things like putting your picture in ads targeted at your “friends”; that promise lasted only until this past summer, when it suddenly “clarified” its right to do with your (and your kids’) photos whatever it sees fit. And just this week, Facebook analytics chief Ken Rudin told the Wall Street Journal that the company is experimenting with new ways to suck up your data, such as “how long a user’s cursor hovers over a certain part of its website, or whether a user’s newsfeed is visible at a given moment on the screen of his or her mobile phone.”

There will be a lot of talk in coming months about the government surveillance golem assembled in the shadows of the internet. Good. But what about the pervasive claim the private sector has staked to our digital lives, from where we (and our phones) spend the night to how often we text our spouse or swipe our Visa at the liquor store? It’s not a stretch to say that there’s a corporate spy operation equal to the NSA—indeed, sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.

Read more at Mother Jones