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Attorneys: Fetus of pregnant, brain-dead wife is 'distinctly abnormal'

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Story highlights

  • "Quite sadly, this information is not surprising," say attorneys for the family
  • Marlise Munoz was 14 weeks' pregnant when stricken
  • Hospital has said it must follow state law

Attorneys representing the family of Marlise Munoz -- a pregnant Texas woman they say is brain dead -- revealed Wednesday that 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. 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 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," attorneys Jessica Janicek and Heather King said in a statement.

Munoz's family has said she has been brain-dead since her husband, Erick Munoz, found her unconscious at their home on November 26. At the time, she was 14 weeks' pregnant with the couple's second child.

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Munoz's husband asked a court last week to force a hospital to take her off a respirator, ventilator and other machines, saying her wishes shouldn't be disregarded just because she is pregnant.

    Erick Munoz filed an emergency motion as well as a complaint against John Peter Smith Hospital, both with the same goal: to have the hospital disconnect the machines so that her family can take her body and give her a proper burial.

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    "Marlise Munoz is legally dead, and to further conduct surgical procedures on a deceased body is nothing short of outrageous," her husband says in the motion.

    Notably, officials at the Fort Worth, Texas, hospital where 33-year-old Marlise Munoz is have not publicly declared her dead, though they have not disputed her husband's assertions either.

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    A hearing in the case is set for Friday, and both the hospital and the Tarrant County district attorney's office said Wednesday they would not comment before then.

    Erick Munoz -- like his wife, a paramedic by training -- said the doctors told him his wife "had lost all activity in her brain stem," and an accompanying chart stated she was "brain dead," according to his lawsuit.

    Hospital spokesman J.R. Labbe said last month that doctors were simply trying to obey a Texas law that says "you cannot withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment for a pregnant patient."

    Munoz's husband responded by saying that "Marlise cannot possibly be a pregnant patient -- Marlise is dead." Furthermore, he argued that her wishes -- relayed, he said, in conversations but not in writing that she not be on "life-sustaining" measures when she is brain dead -- shouldn't be treated differently from a man or other woman simply because of her pregnancy.

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