As reported by The New York Times, July 21, 2005.

Brain-Dead Woman's Fetus Passes Milestone in Development

By The Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va., July 20 (AP) - A brain-dead pregnant woman on life support has passed the milestone in her pregnancy where doctors believe the baby could realistically survive outside the womb, giving her family renewed hope.

The woman, Susan Torres, 26, lost consciousness from a stroke on May 7 after aggressive melanoma spread to her brain.

Her husband, Jason Torres, said doctors told him his wife's brain functions had stopped.

Her fetus recently passed the 24th week of development, the earliest point at which doctors believe the baby would have a reasonable chance to survive, said her brother-in-law, Justin Torres.

"The situation is pretty stable," said the brother-in-law, who is serving as the family's spokesman. "Susan, we have said from the beginning, is the toughest person in that I.C.U. room."

He said that a sonogram suggested that the baby is a girl, and that Cecilia was one possible name the couple had discussed before the stroke.

A Web site set up by the family - www.susantorresfund.org - has helped raise about $400,000 in donations to pay the mounting medical bills, Justin Torres said.

Jason Torres quit his job as a printing salesman to be by his wife's side, and the family must pay tens of thousands of dollars each week that insurance does not cover, the family says.

Donations have poured in from around the world: Germany, Britain, Ireland, Japan, even a check with no note from a soldier in Iraq.

On Monday, the family received a hand-knit baby blanket from a woman in Pennsylvania who was on a tight income but wanted to help.

Jason Torres spends every night sleeping in a reclining chair next to his wife's bed at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, about 100 miles north of Richmond. The hospital has declined to comment on the case.

The couple's 2-year-old son, Peter, is staying with grandparents. He has not seen his mother, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health, since her collapse.

If possible, the doctors hope to hold off on delivering the child until 32 weeks' gestation, Justin Torres said. A full-term pregnancy is about 40 weeks.

"She would have wanted us to fight for this baby - there's no doubt in our minds," he said.

Ms. Torres's melanoma has spread to lymph nodes and taken over her vital organs, but they continue to function. There is a chance the cancer could spread to the placenta, but so far it has been spared, the brother-in-law said.

Extra precautions, including limiting the number of visitors, have recently been taken to help her avoid infections.

Doctors have delayed giving the family a prognosis because the situation is so rare, said Mr. Torres, who said he believed his sister-in-law was likely to hang on for a few more weeks.

Since 1979, there have been at least a dozen similar cases reported by English medical literature, said Dr. Winston Campbell, director of maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Connecticut Health Center, which conducted research on the topic.

The family received an unexpected sliver of joy on June 21, when Jason Torres felt his baby kick 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," Justin Torres said. "That was a very good day for everyone."