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Husband of brain-dead, pregnant woman suing to remove life support

Despite a family's pleas, a Texas hospital refuses to remove a mother from life support because she's 20-weeks pregnant. NBC News' Janet Shamlian reports.

The husband of a brain-dead, pregnant woman filed suit Tuesday to force a Texas hospital to remove her from life support.

Marlise Munoz, 33, was 14 weeks pregnant when she collapsed in her home in November from what doctors believe was a pulmonary embolism.

Her husband, Erick Munoz, says doctors have described her as brain-dead and his wife was clear that she would not want to be kept alive in those circumstances.

But John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth says it is prohibited from pulling the plug by a state law that says: "A person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient."

In court papers, Munoz argued the law does not apply to his wife's case.

"In fact, Marlise cannot possibly be a 'pregnant patient' — Marlise is dead," the suit says. "To further conduct surgical procedures on a deceased body is nothing short of outrageous."

The Tarrant County District Attorney's office said it would represent the hospital in the lawsuit, but had no further comment. Marlise Munoz's mother, Lynne Machado, has supported Erick Munoz's case and said the family would not be speaking to the media.

"We knew her wishes 100 percent and her husband knew her wishes 100 percent," Machado told NBC News last month. "They had had several conversations. She was adamant."

The hospital has been able to detect a fetal heartbeat, but the health and viability of the fetus are unknown.

Courtesy KC Studios Photography

Erick and Marlise Munoz hold their son Mateo.

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