Attorneys for Marlise Munoz, the pregnant Texas woman who hospital officials have refused to take off life support since she collapsed in her home in November, say that the now-22-week-old fetus inside her is “distinctly abnormal.”
“Even at this early stage, the lower extremities are deformed to the extent that the gender cannot be determined,” said attorneys Heather King and Jessica Janicek in a statement released Wednesday. They added that the fetus also “suffers from hydrocephalus,” and that “further abnormalities, including a possible heart problem,” cannot yet be determined because of the “immobile nature of Mrs. Munoz’s deceased body.”
Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant when she collapsed from what may have been a pulmonary embolism; her paramedic husband, Erick Munoz, attempted to revive her, but doctors estimate she may have been without oxygen for more than an hour in the early morning of November 26, 2013.
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Once she was hospitalized, medical officials said they had no choice but to force her to remain on life support, due to a Texas law that invalidates any advance directives a person may have given if that person is pregnant.
According to Marlise Munoz’s husband and parents, she said multiple times that she never wanted to be kept on life support. They say that because she is brain dead, she is legally deceased and should no longer be receiving any medical treatment whatsoever. Like her husband, Munoz was a paramedic, and her family says she had a thorough understanding of her end-of-life directives.
Attorneys for the Munoz family have filed suit against John Peter Smith Hospital, asking a judge to let the family remove Marlise Munoz from life support, take custody of her body, and begin their grieving process. While the details of the fetus’ condition have “no legal relevance to the pending litigation,” attorneys said, they wanted to ensure that there would be “absolutely no misconception about the condition of the fetus or the status of Marlise Munoz’s deceased body.” Their statement concludes:
We reiterate, our client’s position is that the statute prohibiting the withholding of life sustaining measures from a pregnant patient does not apply to the dead. Were that to be true, then it would be incumbent upon all health care providers to immediately conduct pregnancy tests on any woman of child bearing age who becomes deceased, and upon determining the deceased body was pregnant, hooking the body up to machines in an attempt to continue gestation. Surely, such a result was never intended nor should it be inferred.
A hearing on the Munoz lawsuit is scheduled for Friday morning in Fort Worth.