Erick Munoz wants to allow his currently brain dead wife to die, but state law is keeping her on life support against his wishes because she is pregnant.
Less than a month ago on Nov. 26, Marlise Munoz, 14 weeks pregnant, was found unconscious in the living room at 2 a.m., according to WFAA-TV.
With doctors thinking she might have suffered a pulmonary embolism, Marlise has been on life support at a Fort Worth hospital ever since.
Erick and Marlise Munoz in photographs with their 14-month-old son. Marlise never regained consciousness after doctors think a blood clot traveled to her lungs, but she can't be removed from life support following Texas law because she is pregnant with their second child. (Image source: WFAA-TV)
While Erick described his wife as being "simply a shell" at this point, the fetus, now 18 weeks, has shown a normal heart beat in the tests that have been conducted on it.
Still, Erick wants to remove Marlise from life support because it was something they had discussed prior. There was no formal documentation of Marlise's wishes, but even if there were Texas law prevents a pregnant patient from being removed from "life-sustaining treatment."
"We have a responsibility of making sure we follow the laws, whether they are state or federal," J.R. Labbe, vice president of communications at John Peter Smith Hospital, told WFAA.
Erick expressed to WFAA that the tests on the baby have been limited.
"They don't know how long the baby was without nutrients and oxygen," Erick told the news station. "But I'm aware what challenges I might face ahead."
Watch WFAA-TV's report:
"We don't know if these babies have been healthy," Art Caplan, director of the medical ethics at NYU, told ABC News. "We tend to see that these babies are born, then it's the end of the headline. ... We don't know the impact of life support on fetal development and the wife being robbed of oxygen. ... It could be a huge challenge for the fetus."
At 24 weeks, the fetus will be tested again and WFAA reported that doctors might know then if it could be removed, but Erick told the news station there was discussion among medical staff about bringing the baby to term. At 24 weeks, a fetus can be viable outside the womb.
Erick could get an injunction to allow his wife to be taken off life support, but WFAA reported legal council doesn't think a Texas judge would side with this.
Erick and Marlise already have a son, 14-month-old Mateo.
"I walk in the door and he's waiting for momma to show up somewhere. That's the hardest," Erick said.
(H/T: Daily Mail)
Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly listed the Marlise Munoz as "14 months" pregnant, which is clearly false. She is 14 weeks pregnant.