Last week, a woman in Milan gave birth to a baby boy at 32 weeks gestation. The boy weighed just under 4 pounds and is healthy despite being delivered 5 or more weeks shy of what doctors consider “full-term.” But what makes his story even more incredible is the fact that his mother had been clinically “dead” for 9 weeks prior to his birth. His mother was 23 weeks pregnant when she suffered a catastrophic brain hemorrhage.
This story adds to the arsenal of reasons why brain-death is a contentious issue and difficult to define. The mother, an unnamed 36-year-old, stayed alive thanks to life support machines, which kept her blood flowing and breathing stable (allowing her to body to continue nurturing the baby until he was developed enough to be delivered). Doctors inserted a feeding tube into the woman’s intestines, and the nutrients made their way to the baby naturally.
The mother was taken off of life support after the baby was delivered via caesarian section on the 18th. The U.K.’s Daily Mail reports, [a]medic at the hospital said: 'Behind this joy, we can't forget the pain the family is feeling over the loss of this young woman.'
Anti-Life pundits strongly oppose pregnant mothers being kept on life support in situations where the unborn child needs time to develop in order to be viable outside the womb. They accuse the medical and legal communities of forcing women to “incubate” children in this way. But we have to ask why the anti-Life community so vociferously opposes the use of technology (i.e., life support machines) in nourishing human Life. Clearly, the core of the abortion advocate’sstance is not pro-woman sentiment, but a disturbinglove for abortion and death.
Thankfully, the country of Ireland has exemplified the importance of affording equal human rights to both mother and child. Currently in Ireland the family of a young woman in a similar circumstance as the Milanese mother mentioned above fights to have their loved one removed from life support despite her progressing pregnancy. But Irish law mandates that the rights of unborn children are on equal footing with those of their mothers, and consequently doctors are obligated to preserve this life wherever possible.
In Texas last year, we saw a similar legal battle when Marlise Munoz of Fort Worth suffered a pulmonary embolism and was subsequently declared “brain-dead.” Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant at the time, and a legal battle ensued when Munoz’s family insisted that she be removed from life support in spite of the fact that doing so would mean certain death to her unborn child. Texas Right to Life’s Elizabeth Graham weighed in on the issue at that time, saying:
Mrs. Munoz’s tragic circumstance involves two patients who must be considered. Furthermore, Texas Right to Life is greatly troubled by the definitive tone with which physicians are concluding that Mrs. Munoz is brain dead because that term is often misused, and because the criteria to make such a determination varies from doctor to doctor and from hospital to hospital. The lack of objectivity in the diagnosis of brain death allows for misapplication.
This week’s story out of Milan is heartening, hopefully providingencouragement for families who are reeling from the pain of such a horrible prognosis for a mother in their life. Where there is LIFE, there is hope.