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With Baby Born, Brain-Dead Woman Is Taken Off Life Support

A doctor says the infant, who weighs less than 2 pounds, is 'vigorous.'

August 04, 2005|From Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Va. — A brain-dead woman who was kept alive for three months so her fetus could develop was removed from life support Wednesday and died, a day after giving birth.

"This is obviously a bittersweet time for our family," Justin Torres, the woman's brother-in-law, said in a statement.

Susan Torres, 26, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health, had melanoma and suffered a stroke in May after the cancer spread to her brain.

Her family decided to keep the pregnant woman on life support for her fetus' sake. It became a race between the fetus' development and the cancer ravaging the woman's body.

Doctors said the risk of harm to the fetus finally outweighed the benefits of extending the pregnancy.

Torres' daughter, Susan Anne Catherine Torres, was delivered by caesarean section Tuesday at Virginia Hospital Center. The baby was born at the gestational age of 27 weeks and weighed 1 pound, 13 ounces, the hospital said. She remained in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Dr. Donna Tilden-Archer, the hospital's director of neonatology, described the child as "very vigorous." She said the baby had responded to stimulation, indicating she was healthy.

Doctors removed Torres from life support early Wednesday with the consent of her husband, Jason, after she received the final sacrament of the Roman Catholic Church.

"We thank all of those who prayed and provided support for Susan, the baby and our family," Jason Torres said in a statement. "We especially thank God for giving us little Susan. My wife's courage will never be forgotten."

Jason Torres quit his job to be by his wife's side, sleeping in a recliner next to her bed.

Doctors had hoped not to deliver the child before 32 weeks' gestation. A normal pregnancy is about 40 weeks.

Dr. Christopher McManus, who coordinated care for Susan Torres, put the infant's chances of developing cancer at less than 25%. He said 19 women with the same aggressive melanoma as Torres had given birth, and five of their babies contracted the disease.

A website, www.susantorresfund.orgwas set up to help raise money for the family's mounting medical bills, and as of two weeks ago, people from around the world had donated about $400,000. The family said it was accumulating tens of thousands of dollars a week in bills not covered by insurance.

The couple's other child, 2-year-old Peter, has been staying with his grandparents.

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