Marlise Munoz Case: Husband Sues to Take Pregnant Wife Off Life Support

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Marlise Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant when she collapsed and was found unresponsive by her husband, Erick, who is now suing to take her off life support.

Marlise, 33, had gotten up to check on then 14-month-old son Mateo and never returned, leaving the Texas family heartbroken and facing impossible choices.

"We don't know how long she was on the ground," Marlise's mother, Lynne said. "One doctor said she was without pulse and without oxygen for over an hour."

Against her husband and parents' wishes - and wishes they say she made clear to them - Marlise was kept on life support at a Fort Worth hospital.

A law in Texas (and at least 30 other states) prevents the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment from a pregnant patient is the legal basis for this situation.

On January 14, Erick Munoz filed suit against in Tarrant County District court, saying, "Marlise cannot possibly be a 'pregnant patient' ... Marlise is dead."

As debate among medical professionals and ethicists nationwide has continued on the rare case, the condition of the unborn child is also a factor.

Attorneys Jessica Hall Janicek and Heather King of KoonsFuller, P.C., law firm, who are representing Erick Munoz in the suit, updated the media on this:

"We are in receipt of medical records providing more specific information regarding the condition of the fetus," the attorneys said of the 21-week-old fetus.

"According to the medical records we have been provided, the fetus is distinctly abnormal. Even at this early stage, the lower extremities are deformed to the extent that the gender cannot be determined."

"The fetus suffers from hydrocephalus [also known as "water on the brain"].

"It also appears that there are further abnormalities, including a possible heart problem, that cannot be specifically determined due to the immobile nature of Mrs. Munoz's deceased body."

"Quite sadly, this information is not surprising," the Munoz attorneys said.

"The fetus, being deprived of oxygen for an indeterminate length of time, is gestating within a dead body, as a horrified family looks on in absolute anguish, distress and sadness."

"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."

A hearing on the case is scheduled for Friday.

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