ARLINGTON, June 16, 2005 ( – A family in Virginia is pulling together to save the life of their unborn child. On May 7, Susan Torres suffered a brain hemorrhage and has since been on a respirator. Doctors have pronounced her ‘brain-dead,’ and her husband was assured there is no medical hope for her recovery.

Mrs. Torres was suffering from cancer and was pregnant at the time of her collapse. Today, her family and doctors are engaged in a struggle to keep her alive long enough for her unborn child, now at 20 weeks gestation, to be born safely. They hope to keep the child alive until mid-July.

The family are devout Roman Catholics as is their doctor who agreed that the woman should be kept on a respirator and feeding tube for the sake of her child. Her husband, Jason Torres, said, “I think Susan would’ve walked through hell to give that child a chance.”

The possibility exists that Mrs. Torres’ cancer could spread to the womb and result in a miscarriage. Doctors have ruled out radiation therapy because of the danger to the child, whom Torres thinks is a girl. Torres said that the family had not yet decided whether to name the child.

“Fortunately, a lot of friends are saying a lot of prayers for her,” says her physician, Dr. Chris McManus.

“We’re doing her breathing for her, and her heart is still good. The focus is on taking care of any infections that come up. There’s a lot of bridges to cross with her. But with technology, we can keep the body alive. How long, we cannot say.” McManus said.

“Brain death” is a problematic term that many Catholic ethicists worry leaves patients vulnerale to abuse by doctors eager for lucrative organ transplants.

The intoduction of the term “brain death” was a result of the improvements in medical technology and the growing demand for live-organ transplants. In the past, the medical definition of death was the point at which the heart stopped beating and could not be re-started. “Bodies” who are “brain dead” often respond with grimaces and squirming when cuts are made to have their organs removed so that paralysing drugs have to be employed to make them lie still for harvesting.

Dr. Paul Byrne, former president of the US Catholic Medical Association said in February, “Brain death is not death.” Speaking at a meeting sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Dr. Byrne said that in the so-called ‘brain dead’ patient “the heart beats, the body is warm, vital organs like the liver and kidney are functioning and there is respiration, albeit (mechanically) supported.”

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