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Family Fights to End Pregnant Woman's Life Support
FORT WORTH, Texas -- A pregnant woman has been kept on life support for more than seven weeks against her family's wishes.
The hospital says the fetus has a heartbeat and that Texas law is on their side.
This week, the family of Marlise Munoz is expected to take legal action against the Texas hospital that refuses to unplug her from a ventilator.
Munoz is pregnant and collapsed in late November after suffering a blood clot in her lungs. John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth says Texas law requires that Munoz be kept on life support in hopes of saving the unborn baby.
"We were told she was brain dead on Nov. 26," Lynn Machado told CNN.
Munoz's family says Marlise never wanted to be kept on life support. It's a conversation her husband says they had often. They're both paramedics and the parents of a 15-month-old boy.
"We'd seen things out in the field," husband Erick Munoz said. "We both knew that we didn't want to be on life support."
The Munoz story has sparked a debate over these laws that override a woman's right to be disconnected from life support if she is pregnant. About 30 states have these laws on the books. If Munoz is indeed brain dead like her family says, even the people who helped write the Texas law say her husband's wishes to disconnect should be followed.
"If she's brain-dead, then she's already dead, so letting her die isn't really the concept. But can he say "take her off the ventilator"? Um, I believe he can," Southern Methodist University Law Professor Thomas Mayo said.
Attorneys for Erick Munoz tell CNN legal action is expected this week.
John Peter Smith Hospital officials say they're "encouraged by this development because the courts are the appropriate venue to provide clarity, direction and resolution in this matter."
Marlise Munoz is now about 21 weeks pregnant. But medical experts say it's difficult to know for sure if the fetus can survive.
"Just seeing that things look well, isn't the same as saying that things will be well. Because you can have important effects from situations like this that aren't manifest as things that can be seen on ultrasound or MRI."
Marlise Munoz's body remains in the hospital while the debate over what should happen to her rages outside.
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