Marlise Munoz Fetus 'Distinctly Abnormal,' Judge to Hear Family's Case on Friday

The battle over whether a pregnant, brain-dead woman should be kept on life support is set to go to court on Friday in Texas. New information about the fetus is disheartening and only strengthens the family's wishes that the woman, Marlise Munoz, be taken off life support and allowed to die.

"According to the medical records we have been provided, the fetus is distinctly abnormal. Even at this early stage, the lower extremities are deformed to the extent that the gender cannot be determined," attorneys Heather King and Jessica Hall Janicek said in a statement yesterday. "The fetus suffers from hydrocephalus [water on the brain]. 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."

This information has strengthened the case that Erick Munoz, Marlise's husband, and her family have brought against the hospital in order to turn off her life support. They have all said it is what Marlise would have wanted yet Texas law states that a pregnant woman must be kept on life support until the fetus is viable.

Marlise collapsed on November 26 and was declared brain-dead. Erick and her family asked for her to be removed from life support. She was 14 weeks pregnant at the time, and they argued, there was no way to know how long the fetus had been deprived of oxygen or what state it would be in. Yet officials at the hospital told the Munoz family that she would have to be kept on life support until at least 24 to 26 weeks.

Now that Marlise is 22 weeks along, doctors are closer to making a decision about the viability of the fetus. King and Janicek did not mention whether or not the fetus was actually viable but did offer information that could influence a judge's decision on Friday when he will hear testimony from both sides and make a determination about whether to continue life support.