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Fetus of Texas woman on life support 'distinctly abnormal,' family lawyers say

Attorneys for the family of a brain-dead pregnant woman who is on life support in a Texas hospital said Wednesday they have medical records showing the fetus is "distinctly abnormal."

They issued the statement, they said, to clear up any “misconceptions about the condition of the fetus.”

Erick Munoz, the husband of 33-year-old former paramedic Marlise Munoz, has filed a lawsuit against John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth seeking to remove her from life support.

He said her wishes were not to be kept alive in such a state.

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.

Marlise Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant when she collapsed in November from what doctors believe was a pulmonary embolism. The fetus is now at about 22 weeks' gestation.

But the hospital said pulling the plug would violate a Texas law that says life-sustaining support can’t be withdrawn or withheld from a pregnant person.

The statement issued through Munoz's attorneys apparently seeks to bolster the claim that keeping the mother alive for the sake of the fetus is a lost cause.

“Even at this early stage, the lower extremities are deformed to the extent the gender cannot be determined,” the statement says.

In addition the statement says the fetus has swelling of the brain — “hydrocephalus” — as well as a possible heart problem.

“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,” the statement from Munoz's lawyers Heather King and Jessica Janicek read.

The statement also appears to be an attempt to reinforce Erick Munoz's and some experts' position that the Texas statute doesn’t apply to dead people.

“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,” the statement says. “ Surely, such a result was never intended nor should it be inferred.”

Spokeswomen for the hospital and the Tarrant County District Attorney's office, which is representing the hospital in the lawsuit, declined to comment Wednesday. 

A hearing in the case is scheduled for Friday.

With The Associated Press