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The family of a pregnant, brain-dead woman in Texas is preparing to sue the hospital for the right to turn off her life support. Erick Munoz and the family of his wife, Marlise, are working together to try and do what they say their loved one would have wanted.
"We do plan on filing some litigation, and it will be filed soon," attorney Heather King told the Star-Telegram.
Marlise Munoz was found unconscious when she was just 14 weeks pregnant; her husband, Erick, was the one to find her and administer CPR until paramedics could arrive. Doctors believe that Marlise suffered a pulmonary embolism and has been declared brain-dead since Nov. 26. Her family has requested that life support be turned off, but the hospital is not complying, citing a state law that requires a pregnant woman to be kept on life support until the fetus is viable and can be delivered.
"JPS [John Peter Smith] is encouraged by this development because the courts are the appropriate venue to provide clarity, direction and resolution in this matter," J.R. Labbe vice president of the hospital's communications and community affairs, said in a statement. "JPS remains focused on providing compassionate care to all patients while also following the law as it applies to healthcare in the state of Texas."
The Munoz family is fighting the Texas statute that states "A person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment … from a pregnant patient."
"I think the Texas law cannot apply to the dead," Art Caplan, director of medical ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York told the Star-Telegram. "I think the hospital is wrong to insist that it does." He encouraged the Munoz family to "challenge the law both in terms of its application to a dead woman and as an unconstitutional infringement on his right to do what his wife would want."
"The doctors told us that even if a pregnant woman has a DNR or a living will, the law supersedes that," Munoz's mother, Lynne Machado told NBC News. "So any pregnant woman must be kept alive with life support because of the fetus. We had never heard of this and we wanted to get the information out there. No family should have to go through this. It's been pure hell."
Erick and Marlise, both EMTs, have a 15-month-old son named Mateo.