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Judge Prevents Transplant of Vital Organs from Infant Born Without Brain

March 27, 1992

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) _ A judge has prevented the parents of an infant girl born without a brain to donate her vital organs before she dies, but said organs that are not vital to her life can be given to other children.

An attorney for the parents said today that he would appeal the ruling.

Theresa Ann Campo Pearson was born Saturday with anencephaly, a condition that stops the brain from developing beyond the stem, which controls breathing and heartbeat.

The infant’s skull is incomplete and doctors said she will die soon, but Circuit Judge Estella Moriarty ruled Thursday a state law forbids a declaration that she is brain-dead because a small portion of brain she has is working.

″I can’t authorize someone to take your baby’s life, however short, however unsatisfactory, to save another child,″ Moriarty ruled. ″Death is a fact, not an opinion.″

She said, however, that doctors can take organs not vital to Theresa Ann’s life, so one of her kidneys may be removed.

Warned through prenatal tests that there was something wrong with their baby, Justin Pearson and the child’s mother, Laura Campo, planned for her organs to be harvested.

Doctors had told Campo that Theresa Ann’s death could save the lives of five infants who need her heart, kidney, liver, lungs and eyes. Having her declared brain-dead would have allowed for the donation.

″It’s something, not everything″ Pearson said of the ruling. ″She showed hope, some compassion.″

Attorney Walter Campbell Jr., representing the family, said he would appeal the judge’s ruling to the 4th District Court of Appeals in West Palm Beach today, asking that the baby be declared brain-dead.

″Some day they would like to say that their daughter has left a mark on society in this world and hopefully allow another child to live,″ Campbell said today.

Theresa Ann remained in stable, but critical condition today, said Broward General Medical Center spokesman Craig Biles. He also said no suitable recipient had been found for her kidney.

If an operation is performed to remove non-vital organs and Theresa dies, her vital organs likely would not be harvested, said Les Olson, director of organ procurement for the University of Miami.

″We probably wouldn’t do it because people would accuse us of having a slippery knife. We can’t afford that public perception. Donor programs rely on trust,″ he said.

Dr. Richard Beach, a neonatologist at Broward General Medical Center, said any surgery on Theresa Ann would be risky.

″The entire decision is a gray area. I don’t know what we’ll do when the time comes,″ he said.

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