The events surrounding the death of Marlise Munoz, a 33-year-old Texas woman who was pronounced brain-dead while she was 14 weeks pregnant, elicited profound questions for bioethicists in general and libertarian bioethicists in particular. These queries explored the nature of scarce resources, ownership, and State intervention. The following commentary shall analyze the Munoz tragedy from a libertarian point of view.

I summarize the case as follows:

Marlise Munoz was a 33 year old woman who was found unconscious by her husband, Erick Munoz, at home on November 26, 2013. She was rushed to a local hospital. At the hospital it was established that she was 14 weeks pregnant. On November 28, 2013 she was declared brain-dead. As Mrs. Munoz had previously indicated to her husband that she would not like to be kept artificially alive if brain-dead, he requested she be removed from all life-sustaining equipment. The hospital refused, citing a Texas law which required that life-saving measures be maintained if a female patient was pregnant, even if there was written documentation that this was against the wishes of the patient or the next of kin. A legal battle ensued. Further medical testing suggested that the fetus was non-viable. On January 24, 2014, Judge R. H. Wallace Jr. ruled that the hospital must disconnect life support for Mrs. Munoz by January 27, 2014. She was disconnected from life support at 11:30 AM on January 26, 2014.

The libertarian method of analysis of a bioethical dispute is to first clarify the identity of the scarce resource(s) in question. In this scenario the scarce resources in question were the brain-dead body of Marlise Munoz and the 14 week-old non-viable fetus, for the hospital staff and her husband both claimed the right to make ultimate decisions about the dispositions of both (the hospital staff wanted to keep the brain-dead body “alive” in the hospital via life-support equipment in an attempt to keep the fetus “alive” until it could be delivered safely, whereas Mr. Munoz wanted all life-support activities to cease so he could remove the brain-dead body and accompanying fetus from the hospital and proceed with burial).

The second step in a libertarian bioethical analysis is to ascertain the just owner(s) of the scarce resource(s) in question. Ownership in this story means the legal authority to make ultimate decisions about the disposition of the brain-dead body and the fetus. In the Munoz scenario the just owner was Mr. Munoz. This general principle is noncontroversial, for a husband/father (the next of kin) has the best objective link to a wife’s brain-dead body and a non-viable fetus until proven otherwise. If, however, the fetus had been viable, a complicated philosophical debate would have ensued about the nature and timing of personhood, which is a discussion best deferred for future articles.

The third step in a libertarian bioethical analysis is to identify the injustice(s) perpetrated by State intervention in the relevant scenario. In the Munoz case, the State interventions were the Texas State law outlawing the withholding or withdrawal of “life-sustaining treatment for a pregnant patient” and the Texas State corporatist alliance with the relevant hospital. Fundamentally, the State mandated that the hospital steal scarce resources (the brain-dead body and the fetus) from Mr. Munoz, and the hospital was happy to oblige. From the libertarian point of view, the best solution to such State intervention is abolition of the State. Alas, interim measures are required, however, for statists, like Paul Morel notes about his maternal relatives in D. H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers,

“ … are stubborn people, and won’t die.”

Thus, until anarcholibertarianism is the standard political philosophy, unjust laws should be repealed, medical staffs should engage in nonviolent civil disobedience by refusing to honor unjust laws, corporate privileges (subsidies, bailouts, and regulations that cartelize industries) should be eliminated, and medical administrators should decline — and not seek — corporate handouts.

In summary, the tragic Marlise Munoz case, despite an incoherent State decree and a fascist healthcare system, was ultimately resolved in a just manner. Libertarian bioethical analysis of such situations is feasible, insightful, and necessary. Per usual, the best way to prevent this nightmare from recurring is elimination of aggression and, therefore, abolition of the State.