Healthy boy is delivered from brain-dead mother

August 04, 1993|By Cynthia Hubert and Jane Meredith Adams | Cynthia Hubert and Jane Meredith Adams,McClatchy News Service

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Defying long medical odds, doctors delivered a healthy baby boy yesterday from the womb of a woman who has been dead since April 21.

Trisha Marshall's unnamed 4-pound, 15-ounce son, whose custody will be turned over to county officials, is believed to be one of few infants in the world to have survived for so long inside the body of a brain-dead mother.

"It's a bouncing baby boy," Dr. Richard Fulroth said at a news conference announcing the delivery yesterday afternoon in Highland General Hospital. Dr. Fulroth, a neonatologist, said the infant "looks great."

Hospital officials said the bills total about $200,000.

Ms. Marshall, 28, was about 17 weeks pregnant when she arrived in the county hospital's emergency room April 19 with a bullet between her eyes. She had been shot by a legless man who told police that she entered his home, tried to rob him and threatened him with a meat cleaver.

Three days after the shooting, doctors pronounced her dead.

Medical specialists said the chances of maintaining the fetus inside of her for a long enough time to ensure its survival would be almost nil. But after appeals from the family and discussion among members of the hospital's ethics committee, they agreed to try.

"We felt at that time that the odds were very long; that it would be virtually a miracle" if the baby survived, said Dr. James Mittelberger, chairman of the ethics committee.

For the past 15 weeks, doctors, nurses and others have been attending to Ms. Marshall's corpse and monitoring the development of her fetus. They forced air and blood and nutrition into her body, and fought infection and blood pressure changes.

This week, the fetus began developing heart problems in response to his mother's high blood pressure, so doctors decided to attempt a delivery.

After the birth, they turned off the machines that had kept Ms. Marshall's body functioning as an incubator for her fetus.

Hospital officials said the boy was taken by ambulance to Children's Hospital, where he may spend as long as eight weeks. Officials declined to discuss why Baby Marshall will be placed in the custody of Alameda County Juvenile Court and Children's Protective Services.

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