Brain Dead Woman Susan Torres Gives Birth to Baby Girl

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 3, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Brain Dead Woman Susan Torres Gives Birth to Baby Girl Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 3, 2005

Richmond, VA ( — On life support for nearly three months in order to facilitate the birth of her child, Susan Torres on Tuesday gave birth to a baby girl. Susan Anne Catherine Torres was born by Caesarean section two months premature and weighed just one pound and 13 ounces and measured 13.5 inches long.

Torres, a researcher at the American National Institutes of Health, collapsed on May 7 and was rushed to hospital where she was diagnosed with stage four melanoma (cancer) and was declared brain dead, with no hope of recovery.

Hospital physicians discovered the melanoma, treated nine years earlier, had recurred metastasized to her brain. The tumor then hemorrhaged, causing brain death.

A mother of a two year-old son, Torres was 17 weeks pregnant at the time of her collapse. Doctors told her husband, Jason, that there was no hope of survival for his wife, but that they could possibly prevent their baby from dying if she was kept alive.

Justin and Susan’s parents agreed doctors should do everything possible to save the couple’s child.

"She would have wanted us to fight for this baby — there’s no doubt in our minds," Justin told the New York Times.

According to a statement released by the families, baby Susan is "doing well and is being monitored in the neonatal intensive care unit of Virginia Hospital Center" and there were no complications during the delivery.

Doctors are concerned that the metastatic melanoma may have crossed the placenta and affected baby Susan.

Sharon Hymes, M.D., an associate professor of dermatology at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, said the timing of the possible spread to the placenta is uncertain.

"It’s very rare to have placental metastasis, but if you had to pick a tumor that would do this, melanoma would be the tumor that would do this kind of rare thing," Dr. Hymes told MedPage.

Frank Boehm, M.D., a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Vanderbilt University, a specialist in high-risk pregnancies, said the chances of survival for Susan increased because she was able to stay inside her mother’s uterus for 28 weeks.

"The biggest change is at 23 to 24 weeks when you go from 10% survival to 50% survival," Dr. Boehm said. "Every day counts."

Babies born premature at 28 weeks into the pregnancy have a very strong chance of survival. British researchers recently found that 42 percent of the babies born at 23 weeks survived and 72 percent of the babies born at 24 weeks into pregnancy survived the birthing process as well.

Survival rates jump to 90 percent for babies born at 28 weeks into pregnancy.

Justin Torres said that a web site set up to help raise funds for the medical treatment has brought in $400,000 already. He quit his job as a printing salesman to be by his wife’s side and he must pays tens of thousands each week in medical bills that his insurance company won’t cover.

He was overjoyed on July 21 when he felt Susan kicking for the first time.

"It was a very, very nice reminder of what this is all about, and very heartening to us to know that we’re making progress and that we’re getting closer and closer," Torres said. "That was a very good day for everyone."

Donations have poured in from around the world with a contribution even coming from a soldier in Iraq.

Related web sites:
Susan Torres Fund —