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Brain-Dead Woman's Baby Dies

An infant born last month to an unconscious, severely brain-damaged mother has died, the family said Monday.

Susan Anne Catherine Torres, born prematurely on Aug. 2, died of heart failure Sunday after emergency surgery to repair a perforated intestine, a family statement said. A spokeswoman at St. Rita's Church in Alexandria said parishioners were told of the child's death during the morning Mass.

The infant's condition had deteriorated rapidly over the weekend, according to the family.

Cancer patient Susan Torres was kept alive on life support for three months so she could deliver the child by Caesarean section. Torres, a 26-year-old researcher at the National Institutes of Health, suffered a stroke in May after the melanoma spread to her brain.

A spokeswoman at St. Rita's Church in Alexandria said parishioners were told of the child's death during the morning Mass.

"After the efforts of this summer to bring her into the world, this is obviously a devastating loss for the Torres and Rollin families," Justin Torres, the woman's brother-in-law, said in the e-mailed statement. "We wish to thank all the people who sustained us in prayer over the past 17 weeks. It was our fondest wish that we could have been able to share Susan's homecoming with the world."

Susan Anne Catherine Torres was born about two months premature and weighs less than two pounds.

But Dr. Donna Tilden-Archer, director of neonatology at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Va., said after the baby's birth that she was "doing remarkably well."

Doctors removed the baby's mother from life support last month with the consent of her husband 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."

The end of the mother's life became a race between the fetus' development and the cancer that was ravaging the woman's body. Doctors said that Torres' health was deteriorating and that the risk of harm to the fetus finally outweighed the benefits of extending the pregnancy.

English-language medical literature contains at least 11 cases since 1979 of irreversibly brain-damaged women whose lives were prolonged for the benefit of the developing fetus, according to the University of Connecticut Health Center.

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

McManus said there were no signs the cancer had crossed the placenta, which would greatly increase the baby's risk for the disease. McManus said the placenta itself is being examined for any evidence of cancer.

Jason Torres had quit his job to be by his wife's side, spending each night sleeping in a reclining chair next to her bed. The couple have one other child — 2-year-old Peter, who has been staying with his grandparents.

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

A Web site was set up to help raise money for the family's mounting medical bills and had raised more than $600,000 as of Tuesday. Any excess money will be donated to cancer research.

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