hospital - Eli Hershkovitz - March 20 2011
An operating room at Soroka Medical Center. Photo by Eli Hershkovitz
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A 42-year-old woman is brain dead at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem, after giving birth some 10 days ago to a premature baby at Shaare Zedek Medical Center. Based on Israeli law, the woman, from an ultra-Orthodox family near Jerusalem, must be kept alive while her heart continues to beat.

The baby is in stable condition at Shaare Zedek; both hospitals are in Jerusalem.

Around 10 days ago, the woman, in her 31st week of pregnancy, arrived at Shaare Zedek showing severe signs of pregnancy poisoning.

Efforts to stabilize her failed and she underwent a Caesarean section.

Doctors were also forced to perform a hysterectomy, shortly after which the woman suffered a brain hemorrhage.

She was transferred in critical condition to Hadassah a few days ago.

According to Hadassah, the woman was already brain dead when she arrived. Based on a 2009 law, the hospital must keep her on a respirator until her heart stops beating.

"It should be clarified that we are dealing with a dead woman who is occupying the bed of a patient," a senior Hadassah official said. "There are precedents in which a heart has continued to function following brain death sometimes for days and up to weeks."

The hospital said in a statement that "the woman is being treated in accordance with the law .... We will not hold back any medical care that she needs."