The 22-week-old fetus of a Texas woman who has been kept on life support against her family’s will is “deformed,” according to a statement from the family’s legal team. Lawyers for Erick Munoz, whose wife Marlise Munoz was declared brain dead in November, say the family is ready to lay their daughter and her unborn fetus to rest. She has been kept on life support in a Fort Worth hospital.
“Even at this early stage, the lower extremities are deformed to the extent the gender cannot be determined,” the statement, released to the Star-Telegram by Munoz's lawyers Heather King and Jessica Janicek, reads. “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.”
Marlise Munoz, 33, was admitted to John Peter Smith hospital in November after her husband found her collapsed and unconscious on their living room floor. After doctors declared the Fort Worth mother brain dead, the hospital discovered Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant and, because of a Texas law that prohibits medical personnel from cutting off life support to patients who are pregnant, has refused the family’s wishes to remove their daughter from a ventilator.
The family has maintained that Marlise Munoz’s body has been forced to serve as a “human incubator” for a fetus whose state was previously unknown, even though her body is dead. Erick Munoz, a paramedic, has also argued that his wife had previously told him that she never wanted to be placed on life support and would rather die naturally.
The hospital’s refusal to pull the plug on Munoz led her husband to sue the hospital. He hopes the court will order the hospital to withdraw his brain-dead wife from life support.
"Marlise Munoz is dead, and she gave clear instructions to her husband and family — Marlise was not to remain on any type of artificial 'life-sustaining treatment,' ventilators or the like," the lawsuit, filed in Tarrant County District Court on Tuesday, read. "There is no reason [John Peter Smith Hospital] should be allowed to continue treatment on Marlise Munoz's dead body, and this court should order [the hospital] to immediately discontinue such."
Now that the state of the fetus is known, the family wants more than ever to lay their daughter to rest and finally “say goodbye.”
"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,” the statement from Erick Munoz’s lawyers read. “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,” the statement says. “Surely, such a result was never intended, nor should it be inferred.”