Jan. 28, 2014 -- The husband of a pregnant brain-dead Texas woman who was removed from life support on Sunday has named the fetus Nicole, according to a Facebook post from the local firefighters’ union, which has been supporting the Munoz family through its months-long ordeal.
“RIP Marlise and Nicole Machado Munoz. Erick and Mateo Love You So!” the post reads.
Lt. Tim Whetstone, the vice president of the local firefighters' union told ABCNews.com that someone at the hospital told the Munoz family that the fetus was likely a girl, so the family decided to name it.
Marlise Munoz, a 33-year-old paramedic, was 14 weeks pregnant when a suspected pulmonary embolism rendered her brain dead in November. Her husband, firefighter Erick Munoz, knew that she didn’t want to be on life support, and asked to have her removed from it once it was clear she would not recover. But doctors at John Peter Smith Hospital near Fort Worth said they couldn’t remove life-sustaining care because Munoz was pregnant, and doing so would violate a Texas law.
The family sued the hospital on Jan. 14, arguing that the hospital was misinterpreting the law.
On Friday, a judge ruled in the family’s favor, arguing that the law didn’t apply to Munoz because she was already medically and legally dead. The hospital removed Munoz from life support on Sunday morning.
The family allowed friends to visit Munoz in the hospital on Saturday, according to the local firefighters’ union Facebook page, which posted a message from Erick. “Her parent and I decided that we will not have a viewing, therefore this will be the last time she will be with us,” he wrote. “No kids under 12 allowed.”
After the ruling, Munoz's husband, Erick, stood with his lawyers as they made a statement on his behalf.
"This is the decision we sought. There is nothing happy about today. This was a sad situation all the way around," Munoz family attorney Heather King told reporters after the ruling. "We are relieved that Eric Munoz can now move forward with the process of burying his wife."
When asked for his response to the ruling, an emotional Erick Munoz could barely answer "No comment."
The case sparked a heated debate about whether a woman who is medically dead should be kept on life support for the duration of her pregnancy for the sake of her fetus. Although Munoz's mother told ABCNews.com that this was not about abortion for them, the case has also garnered attention from both sides of the abortion debate.
"It's very frustrating because we know what our daughter wanted, and we're not about to honor that because of this law," Munoz's mother, Lynne Machado, told ABCNews.com in December, before deciding to contest the law.
Last Wednesday, the family's lawyers announced that the 22-week-old fetus was "distinctly abnormal," with water on the brain, a possible heart condition and lower extremity deformities.
Texas law states that "a person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient," but the judge determined it doesn't apply to Munoz because she was already legally dead. In Texas, death is legally defined as "the "irreversible cessation of the person's spontaneous respiratory and circulatory functions," according to the Munoz family's legal filing.
According to the suit, the hospital interpreted the law in a way that "makes no sense and amounts to nothing more than the cruel and obscene mutilation of a deceased body against the expressed will of the deceased and her family."
The lawsuit also questioned whether the law was constitutional, but the judge did not make a ruling.
Because John Peter Smith Hospital is a local public hospital, the Tarrant County District Attorney's office represented it. On behalf of the hospital, the office filed its response to the suit on Jan 17, in which it denied all allegations. But after the ruling, it released a statement that it would not file an appeal.
The family's heartbreak began on Nov. 26, when Munoz got out of bed in the middle of the night because her 14-month-old son, Mateo, began to cry, Machado said. When the baby continued to cry and Munoz didn't return, Munoz's firefighter husband got up too. That's when he found Munoz on the kitchen floor. She was not breathing and had no pulse. Her skin had taken on a bluish color, Machado said.
Doctors suspect she had a pulmonary embolism, or a blood clot in the lungs, but they won't know until an autopsy can be performed, Machado said.
"It's hard to reach the point where you wish your wife's body would stop," Erick Munoz told ABC News' Dallas-Fort Worth affiliate WFAA-TV.
The local firefighters in Crowley, Texas, who call firefighter Erick Munoz a "brother," banded together to offer as much support as they could. They'd already brought him two truckfuls of donated baby food and clothing for the couples other son, 14-month-old Mateo, and had raised nearly $7,000 to help cover his wife's medical expenses by Christmas.