Doctors have confirmed that the fetus of Marlise Munoz, a pregnant woman on life support who is clinically brain dead, is “distinctly abnormal.”
Munoz’ family has been fighting to take her off life support since she suffered from a pulmonary embolism in late November, 14 weeks pregnant. Texas law dictates that any pregnant woman must be kept alive until the fetus is brought to term, no matter the circumstances.
At this point, Munoz has not been legally declared dead, but her husband and family members have been fighting with Texas courts to take her off life support. Doctors were unsure about the state of the fetus—until now.
“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,” said attorneys Jessica Janicek and Heather King said in a statement.
"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," they continued.
Marlise and her husband Erick are both paramedics. Erick said they had discussed what they would want in the event of dire circumstances—and that Marlise would not wish to be kept alive in this way.
Erick Munoz has sued John Peter Smith Hospital for refusing their wishes.
"Marlise Munoz is legally dead, and to further conduct surgical procedures on a deceased body is nothing short of outrageous," he wrote in the motion.
There are few studies about the likelihood of a brain-dead woman delivering a health fetus, leading to some of the controversy. Munoz’ lawsuit argues that Marlise should be considered dead, as she has no circulatory or respiratory function. It further argues that her 14th amendment rights to decisions about her body and equal protection under the law are being violated.
State District Judge R.H. Wallace will hear the family’s arguments and decide whether to grant their request on Friday, according to the Star-Telegram.