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Lawyers: fetus of pregnant brain-dead woman abnormal, deformed

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Lawyers for the family of a brain-dead pregnant woman said Wednesday the fetus of the woman "is distinctly abnormal" and its lower extremities deformed.

Marlise Munoz has been kept alive on life support against the wishes of her family since Thanksgiving due to a state law cited by the hospital, John Peter Smith.

The statement from the lawyers reads as follows:

"We are in receipt of medical records providing more specific information regarding the condition of the fetus.  The Munoz and Machado families feel this information is highly private and extremely sensitive, and although we believe it has no legal relevance to the pending litigation, we believe just as strongly that there be absolutely no misconception about the condition of the fetus or the status of Marlise Munoz's deceased body.  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.  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.  We reiterate, our client's position is that the statute prohibiting the withholding of life sustaining measures from a pregnant patient does not apply to the dead.  Were that to be true, then it would be incumbent upon all health care providers to immediately conduct pregnancy tests on any woman of child bearing age who becomes deceased, and upon determining the deceased body was pregnant, hooking the body  up to machines in an attempt to continue gestation.   Surely, such a result was never intended nor should it be inferred."

A hearing is set for Friday in the case of the Munoz.  

Her family says that doctors told them they believe she suffered a pulmonary embolism and that she's brain-dead.

At the time, she was 14 weeks pregnant with her second child.

The family asked to have her removed from life support, but the hospital refused, citing a state law requiring it to keep pregnant women on life support until the fetus becomes viable -- roughly at 24 weeks.

Munoz is now 22 weeks pregnant.

Munoz's family sued JPS last week and the judge on Friday will hear arguments and consider removing the 33-year-old from life support.

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