A Texas judge said Friday that a brain-dead, pregnant woman being kept alive against her family's wishes should be removed from life support. The case has raised questions about end-of-life care and whether a pregnant woman who is considered legally and medically dead should be kept on life support for the sake of a fetus.
On Wednesday, attorneys for Marlise Muñoz’s husband, Erick, said the fetus was “deformed” amid an ongoing court battle between her family and the Fort Worth hospital where she is being kept.
Erick Muñoz said his wife, a paramedic, was clear with him before she fell unconscious on Nov. 26 that if she was ever in such a condition, he was to take her off life support. Citing the Texas Advance Directives Act, John Peter Smith Hospital argued that it was prohibited by state law to withdraw treatment from a pregnant patient.
Muñoz's attorneys, Heather King and Jessica Hall Janicek, issued a statement Wednesday describing the condition of the fetus, now believed to be at about 22 weeks' gestation.
"According to the medical records we have been provided, the fetus is distinctly abnormal," the attorneys said. "Even at this early stage, the lower extremities are deformed to the extent that the gender cannot be determined."
The attorneys, who based their statement on medical records they received from the hospital, said the fetus also had fluid building up inside the skull and possibly a heart problem.
"Quite sadly, this information is not surprising due to the fact that the fetus, after being deprived of oxygen for an indeterminate length of time, is gestating within a dead and deteriorating body, as a horrified family looks on in absolute anguish, distress and sadness," the attorneys said.
Erick Muñoz's lawsuit asked a judge to order the hospital to pull life support and return his wife's body to her family.
Several experts said the Texas Advance Directives Act didn’t apply in this case because Marlise Muñoz, having suffered brain death, was legally and medically dead — a key argument in her husband's lawsuit.
Erick Muñoz previously told the Associated Press that he wasn't confident about the health of the fetus. His wife was 14 weeks pregnant when he found her unconscious in November, possibly from a blood clot.
The Associated Press