Lisbon’s São José state hospital is in the world’s news this morning after having successfully delivered a healthy baby boy from a mother who has been lying brain-dead on life-support for 108 days.
This is certainly one of the longest periods for any ‘artificially-assisted’ pregnancy, and being hailed by the nation’s media as “a miracle”.
The baby, delivered prematurely at 32 weeks, weighed in at 2.35 kg and is being cared for in the neonatal intensive care unit of the capital’s Alfredo Costa Maternity hospital.
The story behind his extraordinary birth starts in February when his 37-year-old mother – identified only as S. – suffered an intracerebral haemorrhage and was declared brain dead.
Seventeen weeks into her pregnancy, the woman’s family decided to try and keep her alive until the baby could be delivered safely.
Medical teams have told reporters that it is “extremely rare” to have succeeded.
Similar situations have been recorded in Poland and the United States, but only once before has a pregnant woman been kept on life support for such a long time.
Curiously, nothing has been said in today’s reports as to whether the mother’s life support has now been turned off.
Commenting on what he termed a “record” for Portugal, president of the Portuguese obstetrics society Luís Graça said S. José’s medical team has been “very courageous, and lucky” in that the mother “was able to stay alive”.
“The majority of women (in these situations) die”, he explained. “Keeping them alive by mechanical means so that the foetus can develop at the same time is very delicate”.
According to reports, the hospital “invited” the opinion of its ethics committee, which was “not consensual”, but in cases like these, the wishes of the family are “sovereign”.