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Woman Delivers Healthy Baby Boy Three Months After Being Declared Brain Dead

Catarina Sequeira, 26, gave birth to a healthy baby boy on Thursday after being declared brain dead in December. Sequeira, a former canoeist, suffered an acute asthma attack at her home in Portugal, which resulted in complete loss of brain function. Despite her condition, she was able to continue with gestation.

Her son, named Salvador, was born at almost 32 weeks and is currently being cared for in a neonatal hospital. This is the second case in Portugal of a baby being born to a mother who was brain dead. Sequeira, who had represented her country as an athlete, suffered from asthma since she was a child.

She was induced into a coma after suffering an asthma attack when she was 19 weeks pregnant, yet her condition quickly deteriorated, and she was declared brain dead on December 26. The baby was able to survive for 56 days in the womb since she was attached to a ventilator. Although doctors hoped to wait for her to reach a full 32 weeks of gestation, unfortunately her respiratory condition weakened, and a C-section was performed on Thursday.

Thirty-two weeks is considered optimum for a baby’s best chance at survival, hospital officials said. The head of the center's ethics committee, Filipe Almeida, said that the decision to keep the baby alive inside the mother's womb was made by the family after consulting with doctors. In addition, Sequeira had never opted out of the country's presumed-consent organ donation law.

"Being a donor is not just about being in a position to donate a liver or heart or lung, but also being in a position to give yourself so a child can live," he said. "And no-one has the right to interrupt the mother's decision process," he told the Observador.

Also, the baby's father, as well as the rest of the family, wanted the child to be born. Sequeira's mother, Maria de Fátima Branco, told Portuguese TV that although she had said goodbye to her daughter on December 26, the father, Bruno, made the final decision to keep the pregnancy going. A funeral was held for Sequeira shortly after the birth of her son.

Salvador was was born weighing 3.75 pounds and will likely remain in the hospital for at least three weeks. In 2016, child, Lourenço, was born in Lisbon after enduring for 15 weeks in his mother's womb, even though she had been also declared brain dead.

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Between 1982 and 2010, there were 30 reported cases of maternal brain death. In 12 of those cases, a viable child was delivered via cesarean section after comprehensive somatic support. There is however, no widely accepted protocol within the medical community to manage a brain dead pregnant mother since there are few reported cases found in medical literature. In addition, the mother's last wishes are rarely, if ever, known, and the family must ultimately develop a care plan.

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