DALLAS (AP) — Before a pregnant, brain-dead Texas woman was taken off life support over the weekend at the end of a long legal battle, her husband said he decided to name what would have been the couple’s second child.
Erick Munoz said Monday he gave the 23-week-old fetus the name Nicole, the middle name of his late wife, Marlise Munoz. He would not say why he chose to name the fetus.
Munoz said doctors at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth indicated to him that the fetus would likely have been a girl, though his attorneys previously said the fetus suffered from lower body deformation that made it impossible to determine its sex.
“They think it was a female,” Munoz said in a brief telephone interview with The Associated Press.
Munoz told WFAA-TV in an interview aired Monday evening that he has seen many negative comments about his decision, but he feels he made the right choice.
“I’m just glad they are not in my shoes. I hope every day that no one ever has to go through what I went through,” he said.
Munoz said his wife will be cremated and there are no plans for memorial or funeral services because the family is concerned that protesters would show up.
“She made me a better man, and I thank her for it. I thank her very much,” he said.
Both the hospital and his attorneys agreed the fetus could not have been born alive that early in the pregnancy, and the fetus was not delivered when the hospital complied Sunday with a judge’s order to pull any life-sustaining treatment from Marlise Munoz.
Doctors said she was brain-dead in November after Erick Munoz found her unconscious in their Haltom City home, possibly due to a blood clot, but the hospital had kept on machines to keep her organs functioning for the sake of the fetus, which it said was per Texas law.
The case inspired debates about abortion and end-of-life decisions, as well as whether a pregnant woman who is considered legally and medically dead should be kept on life support for the sake of a fetus.
Munoz’s attorneys, Heather King and Jessica Hall Janicek, had issued a statement last week saying that according to medical records, “the fetus is distinctly abnormal.” The attorneys said the fetus also had fluid building up inside the skull and possibly had a heart problem.
Erick Munoz told the AP earlier that he believed in God but felt his training as a paramedic suggested the fetus would have been seriously harmed by his wife’s condition.
Erick Munoz sued the hospital because it would not remove life support. He said his wife, also a paramedic, had told him she would not want to be kept alive under such circumstances. In refusing his request, the hospital cited Texas law that says life-sustaining treatment cannot be withdrawn from a pregnant patient, regardless of her end-of-life wishes.
Legal experts told the AP that the hospital was misreading the Texas Advance Directives Act and that the law isn’t an absolute command to keep a pregnant woman on life support.
Judge R.H. Wallace Jr. sided Friday with Erick Munoz, saying in his order: “Mrs. Munoz is dead.”
The case has been noted by Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry and the two leading candidates running to replace him, but none has called for any new laws or action yet. In recent years, the Legislature has enacted several new anti-abortion restrictions, including setting the legal guideline for when a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks.
During a debate among the four big-name Republicans running for lieutenant governor Monday night, all of them said the judge erred in ordering that Marlise Munoz be removed from life support and vowed if elected to tighten state law so that a similar outcome couldn’t happen again.
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