CREDIT: AP Photo/The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Ron T. Ennis
The lawyers representing Marlise Muñoz’s family members, who are suing the Texas hospital that refuses to remove the brain dead woman from life support, have released a statement confirming that Muñoz’s fetus is “distinctly abnormal.”
Despite the fact that Muñoz is clinically brain dead, and therefore considered to be deceased under Texas law, hospital officials have been keeping her body on life support because she was 14 weeks pregnant when she lost consciousness. The hospital is citing an obscure Texas law that forbids the state from removing “life-sustaining treatment” from a pregnant woman. Muñoz’s family, on the other hand, says that law doesn’t apply in this case because Muñoz is already dead.
Muñoz’s family has repeatedly pointed out that the fetus may have suffered severe abnormalities as a result of Muñoz’s brain death. Until this point, however, its health status hasn’t been clear. Now that the pregnancy is a little over 22 weeks along, the Muñoz family’s attorneys have obtained test results that provide a little more insight in this area.
According to the lawyers, the fetus has severe deformities in its lower extremities, so its gender is impossible to determine. It also suffers from hydrocephalus, a condition that involves excess fluid in the brain cavities and can lead to either mental disability or death. It may have a heart problem, although the attorneys say that the extent of the issues cannot yet be determined. The statement did not indicate whether the fetus is considered to be viable.
“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,” the two attorneys representing the family, Jessica Janicek and Heather King, said in a statement.
The Muñoz family has maintained that they are grieving both Muñoz and her unborn child, and simply want to give them a proper burial. “This isn’t about pro-life or pro-choice,” Muñoz’s father, Ernest Machado, told the Dallas News earlier this month. “We want to say goodbye. We want to let them rest.”
As the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports, there isn’t enough scientific research into this area to definitively predict whether a brain dead woman can deliver a viable child. Typically, it depends on the gestational age at the time of brain death and the length of time the fetus was deprived of oxygen. There have been a few successful documented cases, however, including a healthy baby delivered at a Hungarian hospital last year.