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Fetus in Forced Life Support Case is 'Abnormal,' Attorneys Say

Fetus in Forced Life Support Case is 'Abnormal,' Attorneys Say

January 24, 2014 — Lawyers representing the husband of a pregnant woman being kept on life support against her family's wishes say the fetus is "distinctly abnormal," the AP/U-T San Diego reports (Merchant, AP/U-T San Diego, 1/22).

The woman, Marlise Munoz, was 14 weeks pregnant when she was taken to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, after collapsing on Nov. 26, apparently from a blood clot in her lungs. According to Munoz's parents, officials at the hospital told the family that Munoz is brain dead. The Munoz family prepared to ask that the hospital remove life support, per her end-of-life wishes, but hospital officials said they would not comply because of a state law that prohibits withdrawing or withholding "life-sustaining treatment" from a pregnant patient.

Munoz's husband has filed a lawsuit against the hospital arguing that the law does not apply to Munoz because she is legally dead and, thus, not considered a "pregnant patient" under the law's parameters (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/15). Arguments are set to begin Friday before a Texas district judge (AP/U-T San Diego, 1/23).

Attorneys' Statement

In a statement on Wednesday, attorneys Heather King and Jessica Hall Janicek, both representing Munoz, said the medical records they have been provided indicate that the fetus, at an estimated 22 weeks of gestation, has fluid buildup inside the skull and a potential heart problem.

They added, "Even at this early stage, the lower extremities are deformed to the extent that the gender cannot be determined."

They wrote, "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."

Hospital, D.A. Refuse Comment

A spokesperson for the hospital declined to comment Wednesday. The Tarrant County District Attorney's office, which is representing the hospital in the lawsuit, also refused to comment, according to the AP/U-T San Diego (AP/U-T San Diego, 1/22).