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Husband Fights To Take Pregnant Wife Off Life Support

HALTOM CITY (CBSDFW.COM) - A Haltom City man is trying to remove his wife from life support, but says the hospital is blocking him.

For more than a month a ventilator has kept Marlise Munoz alive. Doctors say they cannot and will not remove her since it's against the law.

"It's hard to start the grieving process when we know she's gone," says Marlise's mother, Lynne Machado. "It's honoring what our daughter wanted. She did not want to be on life support."

Her family says they were told Munoz is brain dead and they say John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth is refusing to allow them to take her off life support.

"People have brought up would she have done it if she knew she was pregnant and we don't know of course because she can't speak for herself and she never will we understand that she had a DNR to not resuscitate," said Machado.

Just before Thanksgiving Munoz's husband found her unconscious in their home from a possible pulmonary embolism. She was 14 weeks pregnant at the time.

Munoz Family
(credit: Munoz Family)

"I break down and cry I know in my heart my daughter is gone but to see her shell there and being forced to be alive by the ventilators and the feeding tubes in all it's hard to see her," says Machado.

Texas law prohibits JPS from following a family directive when a pregnancy is involved, according to the hospital.

In a statement from JPS Health Network, Jill "J.R." Labbe the Vice President of Communications and Community Affairs wrote:

"JPS has a responsibility to be a good corporate citizen while providing compassionate, quality care for our patients. In all cases, JPS will follow the law as it applies to healthcare in the state of Texas. Every day, we have patients and families who must make difficult decisions. Our position remains the same; we follow the law."

"The Advance Directives Act applies to patients that have a terminal illness or an irreversible illness," says Dr. Bob Fine, who helped draft the law. "If that is in fact correct she really has been declared brain dead then no the Advanced Directives Act would not apply. If on the other hadn't she is merely comatose, somebody has said something to the husband well her brain has died which is sometimes inappropriately stated when it hasn't and she is merely in a coma, then yes -- the Advanced Directive Act would apply."

Dr. Fine said he wonders if there's some kind of miscommunication between the family and the hospital. Munoz's family now spends their days next to her bedside and caring for her 14-month-old son. Her mother says she just hopes their story will now help change the state law or at least make people aware of it. Her family says they aren't even sure if the baby will survive.

Doctors are expected to perform some tests on the baby in mid-February and the family says they should know more then. Munoz was a paramedic as is her husband. He's back at work part time at the Crowley Fire Department, which has set up a fund for the family to help with hospital expenses.

An account was set up at any Wells Fargo under Erick and their son Mateo Munoz's name.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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