IT WAS CALLED THE CASE OF A.C. A 27-year-old woman, six months pregnant, was expected to die of cancer in days, perhaps even hours. There was a chance the baby would live -- if a cesarean were performed quickly. It was hard to tell what A.C., drugged and in pain, wanted, though her family, her doctor and her lawyer were certain she would not want the operation. Lawyers for GWU hospital argued before a Superior Court judge for the cesarean. Finally, the operation was performed. The baby died two hours later; A.C. died two days later. Columnists, feminists, lawyers and medical ethicists argued over what should have been done and what shouldn't have been done. Lost in the conflict was the person behind the initials -- a spirited, vibrant, loving woman named Angie Carder.

BY DAVID REMNICK

THERE WAS SOMETHING CHILLING ABOUT THE CASE OF A.C. Pregnant, dying of cancer, the woman known in court papers and news reports simply as A.C. was lying in a hospital bed last June, too sedated to consult clearly with her husband, parents and doctors on what to do about the 26-week-old fetus she was carrying. A court decided for her. Over objections of the family and A.C.'s obstetrician, a District of Columbia Superior Court judge ordered George Washington University Medical Center to deliver the baby by cesarean section. Even the mysterious initials A.C. -- used at first for the sake of the woman's privacy -- added a Kafkaesque quality to the story.

Here was a young woman who had battled cancer since she was 13, who had lived through two long episodes of the disease after doctors had said she had no chance, who had survived multiple operations, who had lost a leg and half her pelvis to cancer. A.C. had gone ahead anyway and married and tried to start a family. A fighter and a survivor -- that's how everyone described her. "She never had dying on her mind," her husband said. But in her sixth month of pregnancy last June, a huge, growing, inoperable tumor appeared in A.C.'s lung, and the doctors at GW told her she could not beat it this time. She would die, probably within days, if not hours.

In the rush and heat of the situation, the hospital administrators began worrying about the fetus. What if it was "viable" and they let it die with A.C.? Would the family find reason to sue? Since the critical question had never been posed to A.C. -- "If it comes to it, should we perform an emergency cesarean or should we let the baby die with you?" -- and since A.C. herself was not lucid enough to make the decision, the hospital called in a judge for an emergency hearing. And as A.C. lay sedated and in intensive care, lawyers for GW, for the city, for the fetus and for A.C. gathered at the hospital and had it out.

Once everyone had spoken, the decision was swift. It had to be -- A.C. was losing ground fast. Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered the hospital to perform the operation. "I have an obligation to give that fetus an opportunity to live," he said. "I have ruled."

A.C.'s doctors went to her to tell her about the judge's decision, found her momentarily lucid and asked her if she wanted the surgery. She said yes; minutes later she said no. Neither response was convincing enough for the judge. As the lawyer for A.C. began a last-minute appeal, doctors began the operation. The baby died less than two hours after the operation. Two days later, A.C. was dead.

A lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, which is still fighting the decision on behalf of A.C., railed against "all the decision implied," arguing, among other things, that soon courts might disregard the dignity of the sick and feel free to order doctors to "harvest" the organs of the dying for transplants, that courts are already putting the "supposed rights of the fetus" before the rights of the mother. A.C.'s parents, a carpenter and a housewife from Howard County, went on television -- with Joan Lunden, with Geraldo Rivera, with Rona Barrett -- arguing that the court's decision helped "kill" their daughter. Who could fail to share their anger and grief?

An appellate court is, at this writing, considering the case. A.C. may one day take her place in casebooks along with Plessy, Ferguson, Roe and Wade and other names of legal precedent. But who exactly was Roe? Who was Wade? Who was A.C.?

Some people know A.C. only as the subject of a legal debate, the focus of a 100-page transcript, dense memos, considered opinions all around -- a case, not a life. As one of A.C.'s doctors was leaving the hearing room, he heard one lawyer say to another, "Now that was an interesting legal exercise, wasn't it?" The doctor's disgust was profound, for he had known this woman and mourned what had happened to her in a way that doctors rarely do. A.C. was a real person, 27 years old, bold, outspoken, full of ambiguities and emotions that made her harder to read than lawyers suggest -- hard to know, like any of us. A.C. was a woman named Angela Carder, and she had a voice of her own.

WHEN ANGIE DIED, HER mother, Nettie Stoner, found a box of diaries. What would she do with them? Nettie is a willful, strong woman who knew her daughter like no one else. When Nettie fell off a tractor while mowing the big lawn in Laurel nine years ago and lost both her legs, she grew even closer to her daughter. A couple of years later, when Angie had to have one of her own legs amputated because the cancer had eaten away at the bones as easily as termites riddle a piece of wood, no one could tell her what to expect better than Nettie: "You have pain in legs that aren't there anymore." They shared secrets, Nettie and Angie did, but Nettie has not been able to bring herself to read most of her daughter's diaries. Among the few things she can bear to read are the memoirs Angie wrote to help other kids who, like her, were being treated for cancer at the National Institutes of Health. On page after page of these memoirs, in her own handwriting, Angie summarized the history of her disease and treatment, with the hope that other patients would know they weren't alone:

I was in my seventh year of school and ready to take on the world. I had lots of friends and life just seemed to roll with the punches. I was excited about going to such a big school and having a locker. It all seems sort of silly, but I guess all the kids felt the same way. I remember how we'd all pile into the bathrooms between classes for a quick smoke. We really took our chances trying not to get caught, but that's what made it fun.

I missed a lot of days in school because of a bad pain in my leg. I couldn't really explain the hurt to my mom or the doctor. The only thing that best described it was a throbbing heart- beat.

Mom and dad couldn't figure it out. My mother took me to our family doctor and he told us it was a pulled muscle and gave me some pain pills. As the days went on, my leg got worse. I had to stay in bed all the time. I couldn't even go outside and sneak a cigarette. The only time my leg didn't hurt too much was when I took one of the pills or took a hot bath.

My mother then called an orthopedic surgeon, which is a bone specialist. We went to see him, hoping to really hear what was wrong with me. He examined me and told my mom and me that I would have to go to Prince George's Hosp. to have a biopsy done. That is where they open you up and check everything out.

I can still remember coming home from his office that evening. Both Mom and I were crying our eyes out. I didn't really understand why I had to have a biopsy done. But I did know it would cure my leg one way or the other.

I went into the hospital that Friday evening. I was shown to my room as soon as I arrived. This was freaky, freaky, freaky. I had about twelve doctors in my room in less than a half hour. There were at least five of them trying to get some blood out of me. I went to x-ray in a wheelchair. After all the x-rays and needles I finally got to bed. My surgery was scheduled for the next morning.

The worst thing about it was, my parents had to leave, and there I was, laying in a hospital I knew nothing about and scared at that. I started crying and praying to God, and telling him I was scared and asking him if he could tell me what was gonna happen.

Bright and early the next morning, an old crabby nurse came and woke me up and told me I had to bathe good and put a white sterile gown on. I was shocked very much at the way things were prepared for surgery. I also had to put a paper hat on to cover my hair. Then the doctors came and told me everything would be fine. And put me on a stretcher and wheeled me down to surgery.

The next thing I can remember is waking up and seeing a few of my relatives in the room, looking at me and crying. I looked up to speak and my Aunt Kay walked in the room with my mom and came to me and hugged me. It's funny how both of us broke out in tears as we squeezed each other. I didn't quite realize why everyone was crying, but I thought maybe they were crying because I was, and I was so happy to see them.

My mom and Aunt Mi Mi went down to the gift shop and returned within a half hour. They walked in and my mom handed me a beautiful stuffed white dog. Which I named Lucky. He had a big red ribbon around his neck and was as white as snow. It wasn't till the next day or more that my parents finally told me I had a tumor on the bone in my leg.

WHEN ANGIE'S PARENTS have appeared on TV, it's been Nettie who's done most of the talking. Angie's father, Dan, speaks his mind just fine. But Nettie is special. She is blunt, emotional, the center of things. After so many years of struggling with pain -- her own and Angie's -- she is scrubbed clean of pretense. She will cry if she feels she has to, she will set her jaw and think a while if the question demands it. "I say what I've gotta say." And Angie was always her mother's daughter -- that's what everybody says.

When she was first diagnosed for cancer in her leg, Angie was told to expect the worst. Not fear it, but expect it. She was just 13 years old. So Angie said, "Mom, the doctor told me I'm gonna die. What's he talking about?" The only time she cried back then was when the doctor said the chemotherapy would make her bald.

The Stoners live in a huge ranch house that Dan and a few of his friends from work built in the country town of Clarksville, Md. The place rambles from one rec room to the next, and there are always friends around to swim in the pool or, as on this winter night, to sit around the stove or the VCR. Tonight some of the guests are watching a tape of the Stoners' appearance on "Larry King Live." Nettie and a few friends are looking at snapshots of Angie. In every one, from when she was a little girl right up until last spring, she is beaming. "She wasn't ever beautiful, but she really was. You know what I mean?" Nettie says. "That girl didn't know what death was."

I was taken to the National Institutes of Health {in 1973}. A doctor came to my room, on the second floor, where all the leukemia patients were. Most were younger than I was. He talked to me, and told me I had cancer. He also said they would give me drugs to help cure it, plus radiation treatments.

They started me on these special treatments right away. The treatments made me very sick to my stomach and dizzy. It was a weird feeling. I thought I would die every time I got sick. Before any of this happened I weighed 178 pounds and I was a very fat girl. After being hospitalized, I began to take off weight very fast. I got down to 130 pounds and looked great.

Oh boy, school was about to start in another week and I couldn't wait to be back with my friends and all. We went clothes shopping to get some new clothes for school. I was in the dressing room and trying on a pair of pants when all of a sudden my leg snapped. I screamed out "Mom, I broke my leg" and people were coming at me left and right. They got me a chair to sit in and called an ambulance.

The ambulance came and they put me on a stretcher and rolled me out to the parking lot and into the ambulance. I still remember putting my hands over my face as they rolled me through the store from the dressing room. People were straining their damn necks to see me. When we were out in the parking lot I kept telling my mom they wouldn't be able to lift me in. This one man was outa sight, he was very cute. Mom rode in the ambulance with us to the hospital.

They put a pin in my leg to strengthen it. About a month later I was able to go home, but I still had to walk on crutches and go back to NIH for my treatments. The treatments made me lose all my hair. But they gave me a certificate to go and get a wig of my choice -- free. It looked alright, I guess, of course I only wore it if I went out in public.

We have moved since then to the country. We built a house in Clarksville, Md. The school my sister and I go to is a lot better than Beltsville.

I have been dating a lot of guys and going to parties with my friends. I have two dear friends named Susie and Jackie. Susie drives and we go to diff. parties, up to the mall and hook school when we can. I don't hook much or hardly anymore because I got caught and had to write a 1,000-word essay.

Just recently I met a really great person. He is very close to me, and understands my feelings. He is a Taurus. His name is Rick.

ANGIE KEPT A SCRAPBOOK, AND IN IT SHE PASTED TICKET stubs from nights at the Cap Centre -- Kiss, Jethro Tull, Bob Seger -- love poems to a succession of boyfriends, an empty pack of Kools, beer bottle labels, a cardboard heart crayoned red. From the age of 13 on, Angie seemed to have an even more important stake than most kids in preserving her pleasures, in recording them, making them clear in a book by her bed. So many things made her happy: the time she won a trip to a Rolling Stones concert in Texas from DC-101; sneaking out her window and staying out dancing till 3 in the morning; the red Pinto she was always smashing up; payday at her secretarial job at Fort Meade; meeting Redskin Joe Jacoby at Rocco's restaurant in Fairfax; singing country songs at the Moose club.

"No matter what, Angie was a happy girl," says her older sister, Sherri. There's a snapshot the family keeps of Angie holding Sherri's baby daughter. Angie is bald from the chemotherapy and there really is a glow in her eye as she stares down at the child. "She was saying, 'Oh God, she's so perfect,' " says Sherri.

In all I received eight operations on several different occasions throughout my remaining school years. I believe my senior year was the only year I was able to attend a full year and graduate with the rest of the class.

In 1980 I got my first real job as a receptionist in an office in Fort Meade working for the government. Things were going great. I was on top of the world and loving life again!

Then in Oct. 1984, I started having that all too familiar pain in my left leg again. I couldn't believe it. "It" was back again. I just knew it!

I went back to NIH. I was told after several tests that I had a form of cancer called Osteogenic Sarcoma. The cancer had now grown up into my hip area, and was so far gone -- the leg and hip would have to be amputated. I would finally lose the leg I had struggled so hard to keep for so long. Sure I cried, but I knew in my heart that this would be the end of all my pain and suffering.

NOTHING MADE HER FEEL quite as happy as Rick. with him she really did believe that all the suffering would be over. They met at a party after he'd gotten out of the Navy and Angie was working as a secretary. They lived together for six years, and after she lost her leg and hip, Rick stayed with her, took care of her as best he could. Angie was a new kind of world for him. His parents had split up when he was 5, and his dad was dead by the time Rick turned 8. Rick never talked much with his stepfather -- still doesn't. But the Stoners were different. They celebrated Christmas and New Year's and Redskin Sundays with huge parties. Friends came over nights just to talk and have a drink.

So Rick loved Angie. She was so full of love for him. There were times when Nettie wasn't happy with Rick. She thought he didn't work nearly as hard as he could have, not like Sherri's husband Mark did, but she said she was glad her daughter "was happy for once in her life."

Rick gave her confidence. Angie just never gave two hot damns if people were freaked out by the way she looked sometimes or the outrageous things she could say. Bald from chemotherapy, her leg gone, she refused to retreat. "Angie was fat and Angie limped," Nettie says. "Angie was different. She wasn't perfect and she loved to have fun. She loved living."

She didn't take any guff. Even when Angie was in a wheelchair, she and Rick liked to go out dancing at bars in Prince George's County. They liked places where the music was loud and hot, and they would head for the dance floor. While Rick hopped around, Angie wheeled around -- that was their dance. They loved it. But sometimes other people in the club would object to Angie's wheelchair dance. You may be sure Angie was never restrained in her response. "Go to hell," she would say. It wasn't just that people weren't letting her dance. It was the attitude behind it that annoyed Angie: "People do not know how it feels to be handicapped and discriminated against."

"Angie never gave up on anything big," says Dan Stoner. "You hear about people being fighters? She was a fighter. She had to be."

Angie and Rick decided to get married in October 1986. Angie was determined that both she and Nettie would walk down the aisle. The two women would strap on their artificial legs at Nettie's house and practice walking, day after day.

The night before the wedding, Angie and her friends went to see some male dancers at a place in Glen Burnie. Everyone stood and crowded around the dancers as they strutted around, half-dressed, Chippendale's style, but Angie and Nettie couldn't get out of their wheelchairs and they couldn't maneuver to the front of the crowd. They couldn't see. Nettie didn't mind so much; it was no big deal. But Angie was depressed all night.

Driving home on Route 1, Angie saw a car dart into her lane, and she slammed on the brakes. The force of stopping so hard broke her ankle. As if she hadn't been feeling bad enough. Nice wedding present. But Angie didn't let it show. "Now I don't have a leg to stand on," she told everyone. Same old Angie. Angie the fighter. When she worked at a retirement home, she always told the old people they had to live, to fight. She told the same thing to her mother when Nettie would get frustrated by the lack of a wheelchair ramp or some rude jerk passing a remark on the street. Being handicapped was no sin. And Angie was damned if she wasn't going to dance at her own wedding.

With her cast wrapped in lace to match her dress, Angie had a blast. She sat in her wheelchair as Rick spun her around the floor, their old dance. It was what weddings should be, a celebration with everyone they cared about in one room. "That was the happiest Angie ever was," Sherri says. "She was married to a guy she loved, and she thought she had the cancer beat after so long."

Soon Rick and Angie thought about starting a family. At the Stoner Christmas party, Angie said to Nettie she wanted a baby. Nettie said she was out of her head. Never mind that Angie's doctor at NIH said she was in remission and it would be okay to get pregnant so long as she went for regular prenatal treatments. That wasn't it. Nettie was worried about all the problems her daughter would have: the wheelchair, the lack of money. Rick and Angie decided they wanted what they wanted, and that was that. "I was using contraceptives there for a while but we really wanted a family," Rick says. "We always thought we'd get through all this." And so Angie got pregnant.

Angie told her friend Debbie Brown that everything was going to be fine, they'd see. "She thought Rick and her were gonna be a mom and dad," Debbie says. "And the baby would grow up and life would be happy and normal."

Angie was feeling well. Although she and Nettie had to depend on their special van and wheelchair ramps, they went downtown regularly for Angie's check-ups in the GW high-risk pregnancy program. It was worth the struggle, worth everything.

But after a while Angie started having trouble breathing, a shortness of breath that, at first, the doctors thought was caused by some kind of fluid on the lung. Bronchitis, maybe.

Angie knew better. "Mom, that ache is back," she told Nettie. "I've had it before, and I know what it is."

Angie went to the hospital for an X-ray. When she got back to the van, Nettie was there waiting for her.

"What did the doctor say?"

"The doctor said it was just normal," Angie said.

"Angie, it is not normal."

"You think you know everything," she said, but she wasn't angry. Not at Nettie. That night Rick was working a late shift on his sheet-metal job. Nettie made crab cakes for everyone. Later Angie and Nettie lay down side by side in bed. Angie was still having trouble breathing and she could feel the dull pain inside her. Nettie rubbed her back for her. They didn't say much in the dark. But "I think we both knew," Nettie says.

Two days later the doctors caught on. "It's not fluid," they told Angie. "It's a mass."

ANGIE WAS IN THE HOSPITAL AGAIN. THE DOCTORS WERE appalled at the size of the tumor in her lung. On Monday, June 15, 1987, they suggested that it might be possible to give Angie experimental chemo or "a really big blast" of radiation that might keep her alive a few more weeks. Angie wanted that. The doctors told her that those two weeks would allow the fetus to develop more; it had a better chance to survive if it was 28 weeks old instead of 26. Dan and Nettie now say they were given hope then that Angie herself could even be cured with therapy, but the doctors say now there was never any hope. Not for Angie.

Sherri felt miserable. She could not lose her sister. She would feel so alone without her. People said Sherri and Angie were night and day. Sherri was quiet, married, with a house full of kids. Angie was rambunctious, independent. You never knew what she'd say. And Angie was "special," Nettie always said. Usually Sherri understood, but when Nettie would get short with her or talk about Angie all the time, Sherri felt slighted, but could never bring herself to say anything about it. "I felt like chopped liver sometimes," Sherri says. Now, with Angie in the hospital again, Sherri felt at such a loss that she had to write her sister a note.

Dear Angie,

You are my only sister and I need you, so you better be the strongest you've ever been and beat this thing once again, not just for me or the rest of the family but for yourself and your little family you are making. Angie, please be strong. I need you, everybody needs you.

But as much as Angie's family tried to make a metaphor of cancer -- turning it into a battle that one wins or loses, fights or succumbs to -- her disease was a matter of dumb biology. Cancer was not an opponent with emotions, something that could be intimidated by human strength. The cancer just was, and it was killing Angie.

By the next day, Tuesday, the tumor was much worse. The doctors called the Stoners early in the morning. "Get in here," said the voice on the telephone. "Angie's not doing well." A priest was called in to say last rites. Rick and his mother came. The medical reports were getting worse and worse. Things were starting to happen at a pace that would bewilder everyone for months to come. "We didn't realize how quickly she would deteriorate," says Lewis Hamner, Angie's doctor in the high-risk pregnancy program. Jeffrey Moscow, Angie's oncologist from NIH, told Hamner he'd rarely seen such a rapid advance.

By now everyone understood that Angie would be gone very soon. And because she was heavily sedated, it was too late to ask Angie the new key question: Would she want a cesarean knowing that the chances of the 26-week-old fetus' dying or being born with severe defects were very high? "That never got asked," Hamner says.

Instead, hospital administrators -- through their lawyers -- called in a judge. A hospital source says they decided to do this because the fetus was "clinically viable." And without the opportunity to get Angie's clear decision, they needed a legal opinion of what to do. In fact, the same hospital source says, "We figured everything would be post-mortem. We never thought we'd get to where we did."

Hamner and the Stoners both think the hospital's decision to call a judge was preposterous. "The hospital administration felt that if you didn't do anything, there was this opening to be charged for not doing anything," Hamner says. Or, more simply, the administrators, says Dan Stoner, "felt they had to cover their ass."

When the judge arrived and convened his makeshift court that afternoon, there was hardly a person in that hospital conference room who did not feel the sadness of the situation. Barbara Mishkin, a lawyer from Hogan & Hartson, was called in by the court to represent the fetus. And as she began arguing for a cesarean, she thought of how one of her children had been born with neurological disabilities that took years to overcome. Later, she would try to put herself in Angie's situation and think long about what she would have done, what she could have done.

Robert Sylvester, a burly Bethesda lawyer who specializes in medical emergency cases, was called in by the court to represent Angie. As he quickly learned the outline of the case, he was transported back, years ago, to the same hospital, when his first wife, Sylvia, was dying there of cancer. Sylvia was just a couple of years older than Angie, and when she died she weighed 75 pounds. He did not want to see Angie suffer an operation her own parents were convinced she would not want. He wanted Angie to die "still holding her dignity." He wanted the family to remember her, Angie, not a wrenching legal case. "Angie was dying but she wasn't dead," Sylvester says. "Those last days are everything to everyone. I know. A person's last days on earth are everything. They can communicate through words or touch and those moments shape everyone."

The ACLU, too, was intensely interested in cases like Angie's. Just the day before, someone in the New York offices had said, "Wouldn't it be good to get one of these cases?" There had already been 18 instances of ordered cesareans in the country, and now the ACLU was hearing about Angie through a lawyer in Washington. Lynn Paltrow, a lawyer in the ACLU headquarters in New York, saw the A.C. case as "an outrage." She was determined to fight what she sees as a tendency now among courts to dictate to pregnant women what they must and mustn't do. Paltrow kept in touch by phone, and another ACLU lawyer, Elizabeth Symonds, sat in on the hearing.

So they sat down to talk, seven doctors and eight lawyers, Stoners and Rick, judge and court reporter, everyone polite, somber, everyone acting for Angie.

Vincent Burke, an attorney for the hospital, began the proceedings by citing a 1986 case in which Ayesha Madyun, a 19-year-old Washington woman, came to D.C. General Hospital after being in labor for two days. The doctors there thought the baby was in danger of developing a fatal infection and said Madyun needed a cesarean. Madyun refused. She wanted a natural birth. But a judge ruled that "it is one thing for an adult to gamble with nature regarding his or her own life; it is quite another when the gamble involves the life or death of an unborn infant." The judge ordered the cesarean.

Barbara Mishkin, the attorney for the fetus, spoke next. "We are not confronted with the problem of choosing between the life of the mother and the life of the fetus. Sadly, the life of the mother is lost to us no matter what decision is made at this point. The mother is fatally ill and has very little time left. The loss to the mother at this point is in terms of hours of insensate existence, as best we can determine."

Robert Sylvester presented Angie's side. He argued that, from conversations that Angie had had previously with family members and hospital staff, it was clear that Angie would not want the operation. And who would know Angie's mind better than Nettie?

When it was time for the court to hear from Nettie, everyone leaned forward a bit to hear about Angie.

"She wanted to live long enough to hold that baby," Nettie began. "She did not want me to have to take care of that baby. She told me that. She wanted to live to hold that baby."

Mishkin: "This is terribly difficult for you, I know, and I'm sorry to have to ask you some questions, but I think it is important at least to get some sense of how you, as a family, would be able to cope if there were a live baby to come out of this. Do you have, for example, is there medical insurance? Is there any way that you have or are you totally stranded?"

Nettie: "Nobody. Nobody would insure a baby. Nobody would insure my daughter. Nobody."

Mishkin: "So there is no family insurance that would cover the baby's care?"

Nettie: "No. That doesn't even enter into it. I don't care about the money. It's just that I know there will be something wrong with this baby. I can't handle it. I've handled {Angie} and myself."

Mishkin: "I understand."

Nettie: "Nobody else can love a child like that and I know what it would be. No."

Mishkin: "Would you -- would you even have the resources to handle a healthy baby?"

Nettie: "No."

Mishkin: "If the baby was not compromised?"

Nettie: "Not really. Rick, her husband, they have only been married eight months. I mean, he hasn't even had her long enough. How is he going to cope with a baby? They don't have any family, just Rick and his mom. It's me and I'm in a wheelchair. I can't put that burden on us anymore. Angela is the only one that wanted that baby to love. She said she wanted something of her very own."

Mishkin: "Would you consider placing the baby for adoption?"

Nettie: "Never. Never."

. . . Mishkin: "What would you do if the baby survived?"

Nettie: "Who wants it?"

At this point, Mishkin recalls, some of the people in the room seemed shocked at Nettie's bluntness. "I'm sure it was out of stress," Mishkin says. She pushed on.

Mishkin: "I guess I'm asking you a terribly difficult question, but I'm trying to determine . . ."

Nettie: "I would take care of the baby. I would never put it up for adoption. I would do the best I could, but we don't want it. Angela wanted that baby. It was her baby. Let that baby die with her."

Rick: "Please."

Nettie: "It's hers."

Mishkin: "I have no further questions."

AT ABOUT 4 THAT AFTERNOON, AFTER APPROXIMATELY three hours of testimony, Sullivan ruled "for the fetus." He noted that from the testimony of the doctors it was clear that the fetus "has approximately a 50 to 60 percent chance to survive if cesarean section is performed as soon as possible" and that there was less than a 20 percent risk that the fetus would have a serious handicap such as cerebral palsy or mental retardation. He had also been told that the baby's chances were worse if they waited until the instant of Angie's death to deliver it.

"The court is of the view that it does not clearly know what Angela's present views are with respect to the issue of whether or not the child should live or die," he said. "She's presently unconscious."

He cited the Madyun case, which the hospital attorney had referred to. Sullivan added, "It's not an easy decision to make, but given the choices, the court is of the view that the fetus should be given the opportunity to live." He ordered the hospital to deliver the baby by cesarean section.

Sylvester was disappointed, deeply so. But he was moved, too, when Sullivan choked up as he gave his judgment. "The judge was wrong, but he was respectful and motivated by good intention," he says.

Dan Stoner doesn't see it quite that way. "The judge, as I guess they all are, was a distant onlooker without any personal or hands-on type situation, like we had. Angie wanted a baby she could hold. Nettie is in a wheelchair. Is that so heartless? We figured no, if Angie wasn't here to take care of the baby. I certainly don't think her husband could do it."

Hamner went up to the intensive care unit to see Angie and inform her of what had taken place. She was still groggy from the painkillers but somewhat less sedated, and Hamner felt she was understanding everything he was telling her. Hamner, for his part, was not happy with Sullivan's decision, and his words to Angie had a distant, official ring. With a nurse standing next to him, he said, "It's been deemed we should intervene on behalf of the baby by cesarean section and it would give it the only possible chance of living. Would you agree to this procedure?"

"Yes," Angie said.

"Do you realize you may not survive the surgical procedure?" he said.

Angie said, "Yes."

Hamner repeated the questions. Both times Angie gave her assent.

The world was bearing down on Hamner. He had been upset that the hearing had been held in the first place. Earlier he'd told Nettie, "It looks like Angie won't make it through the night." And about a cesarean Nettie had said, "I don't want you to do that to Angie. This is Angie's baby. She wanted it. Let her go to heaven with her baby." He felt Angie wouldn't have wanted the operation. And so now he was wiped out, confused. All he could do was tell the judge immediately about what Angie had just said. That seemed to seal it. The judge had no reason to change his mind.

But half an hour after asking Angie about the cesarean, Hamner returned to the intensive care unit with an oncologist, Allan Weingold, and the Stoners to verify in their presence what Angie had said. Angie could not talk as clearly as she had before she was sedated and intubated, but she could make herself understood to everyone at her bedside.

Weingold told the judge what had happened:

Angie "asked Hamner if he would perform the operation. He told her he would only perform it if she authorized it, but it would be done in any case. She understood that. She then seemed to pause for a few moments and then very clearly mouthed words several times: 'I don't want it done. I don't want it done.' Quite clear to me."

When Angie said she didn't want it done, Hamner said, "I won't if you don't want me to." "I felt like I'd have been assaulting her to do it," he would later explain. Another doctor was called in to perform the surgery.

Weingold was pressed to evaluate how aware Angie was, whether she was capable of "informed consent." "I think she's in contact with reality, clearly understood who Dr. Hamner was," he told the court. "Because of her attachment to him, she wanted him to perform the surgery {and} understood he would not unless she consented and did not consent. That is, in my mind, very clear evidence that she is responding, understanding and is capable of making such decisions."

But on the matter of informed consent, Weingold said, "That in my mind has to take place in an environment other than intensive care unit with a weeping husband and mother and all the paraphernalia."

Sullivan looked at Angie's "yes" at 4:40 and her "don't" at 5:10 and said he was "still not clear what her intent is." He would let his original ruling stand. They would deliver Angie's baby. So ruled the court. A three-judge panel of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, which convened by conference call at Sylvester's request, upheld the decision. The Stoners could not believe what was happening to Angie and to them. "They wrote her off," Dan says. "It's like they said, 'You're as good as dead and we're taking the baby.' "

Hamner scrubbed and went to watch the operation. The baby was delivered at 1.7 pounds, with fingers the size of matchsticks and lungs so terribly undeveloped they could not function normally. The doctors tried to pump air into the baby's lungs but, Hamner says, it "was like trying to ventilate a rock."

Outside the delivery room, Nettie and Dan, Rick and his mother waited. Finally, the doctors brought the baby out. Angie and Rick had agreed to name their baby Lindsay if it was girl, and it was. Everyone got a chance to hold her. Hospitals try to do that with a sick or dying newborn so that the family has a chance to bond with the baby -- "It helps them grieve," Hamner says. Sylvester thought it was "ghoulish." Rick held his daughter as long as he could, saying, "C'mon, little Lindsay." His little girl felt so small and the faces around him gave him no hope at all. "Oh, she wasn't ready. She wasn't ready."

Lindsay Marie Carder died less than two hours after she was born. Rick felt sure she had died in his arms, and his anger and grief burned inside him. "Let's go tell the judge about Lindsay," he said. "Let's go tell the judge he killed my baby."

ANGIE WEPT WHEN THE FAMILY TOLD HER LINDSAY WAS dead. Nettie says, "She said to me, 'No more, Mom. No more.' Meaning she wouldn't have any more kids."

On various radio and TV programs, Dan and Nettie have said that the cesarean made Angie's own physical condition worse. Hamner says that was not the case. "Surgery is a big stress on the body -- it could lessen the life by several hours, but with Angie it probably improved things" by taking some stress off her body.

Everyone visited. Angie's friend Alicia Shenk came with Rick. "She could tell who was there," Alicia says. "I kind of think she knew, finally, what was happening to her." Angie asked Rick to hold her and he did. "But the next day," says Alicia, "they started putting the drugs into her. She was hooked up to a machine above the bed that measured her heartbeat. And we just waited there until the machine read zero."

Angie died on June 18 at 8 p.m. A funeral mass was said for Angie and Lindsay at St. Mary of the Mills Catholic Church in Laurel, and then they were buried behind the church. Angie's Uncle Bill gave the eulogy. He talked about how she'd made friends with the out-of-town kids who came to NIH for treatment, how she'd worked as an Avon lady and operated a snow-cone stand in Burtonsville, how she was "love -- pure and simple."

Lewis Hamner was there, too. Doctors don't usually go to the funerals of their patients. They need a certain distance; otherwise it would be nearly impossible to get up the next day and work with the sick. "It's not the usual thing, but neither was Angie," he says. "She was special to me. Going to the funeral -- well, I guess I owed her at least that much."

Lindsay was buried in the same coffin as Angie. "They wrapped Lindsay in a bundle and put her in her mother's arms," Nettie says.

Now, months later, Nettie sits at the table in a rec room. There are a dozen people there, having beers and sandwiches, and they are silent as Nettie talks about Angie's going day after day to the clinic at NIH. Nettie knew that the doctors thought she was going to lose her daughter. Every week, it seemed, another kid would be gone. "I remember thinking, 'I wonder where Jack or Linda are?' But I wouldn't want to ask because I didn't want her to think about dying." Nettie looks at a picture of Angie from long ago, a chubby school kid with a ready smile. "And I remember how the bus wouldn't stop at our driveway and Angie having to walk all the way down the road to the bus shelter. I think of how stupid I was. I feel so bad about that now . . ."

Nettie loses it. For hours she's been talking about hospitals, cancer, her daughter's strengths and imperfections, but this image -- Angie limping down the road on crutches to catch the morning schoolbus -- this just about kills Nettie, and she weeps. And now all the family gathers around her -- Dan, Sherri and Mark, and Bev and Bill, the friends from down the road. "Oh, Nettie," they say. "We loved her. You were the best mother." They put hands on her shoulder, her face, her wrist. They are all there. All except Rick.

RICK WAS THE SILENT ONE. AT THE hearing, he let the doctors and the lawyers and Nettie do all the talking. When the judge asked him if he had anything to add, Rick said, "I don't think I could handle it, to tell you the truth." And that is the way he's left it. "I was just too devastated to talk," he says. "It all happened so fast. One minute she's fine, the next minute they say she's got water on the lung, so-called, and the next thing I know she's dying and Lindsay's dying and I'm at this hearing."

At the funeral, the priest told everyone that Rick had always said that Angie was "a rock" and now "Rick had to be the rock." But Rick was no rock. Not in the days after her death. Friends remember him wandering from one place to the other "like a ghost." Angie's friend Debbie Brown says, "I was afraid he was gonna take his own life. He came to me and said, 'I've lost my whole life here.' And then he paused, and said, 'But don't worry, I won't do anything drastic.' He was numb, like he was in a nightmare that couldn't really be happening."

Rick stopped working at his sheet-metal job and started drinking hard. For a while, he was using tranquilizers to help kill the sadness -- until "I stopped taking the pills 'cause they were just making me more depressed."

RICK HAS MADE HIMSELF HARD TO find. He doesn't like to talk to the lawyers much, and he can live without reporters, too. But one freezing night Rick says it would be all right to visit him at his mom's trailer off Route 1 in Laurel. "You'll find it. It's the one by the big stump." A big wolfhound named Lady with chilling eyes roams on a chain outside. The light inside is dim. Rick's talk is disbelieving, hurt, lonely. "It seems like hardly anyone knows me anymore. Everyone stopped coming by. I guess all our friends were Angie's friends. I don't know why. I never did anything to anybody."

It's no mystery to Rick why Dan and Nettie stopped talking to him. Two weeks after the funeral, he met a woman named Dorothy and they began living together right away. Two weeks after the funeral. Nettie was incensed, and she called Rick to tell him so. "She couldn't believe I had someone in Angie's place already, in Angie's room and Angie's bed," Rick says. "Everybody said it's too soon, it's too soon. But I guess I'm the one to decide that, aren't I?

"I'm young, single. I'm not getting any younger. I'm 28. I don't know why they can't accept me. I can't help it that Angie's gone. I can't help it that I fell in love."

A day or two after they spoke on the phone, Nettie came to Rick's apartment. As Rick watched in silence, Nettie took Angie's things: her pictures, her clothes, a dresser, the bed. They never said a word to each other. Nettie doesn't want to talk much about Rick anymore.

The only time Rick sees Dan and Nettie now is when they're on TV. He tries to ignore it. It's not going to bring Angie back, he thinks, but maybe it will help someone else.

The strange thing is, Rick has a view, after all, of what Angie would have wanted had she been able to speak for herself in the hospital. And it's not the view the ACLU or the Stoners might have expected. "If she knew she was going to die, she probably would have said yes to the cesarean," Rick says now. "She knew how much I wanted the baby." During the hearing, it was assumed that if the baby had lived, the Stoners would be the ones to care for her. Now Rick says he would have done his best. "I know my in-laws won't believe it, but I've got my pride. And I've got my mom."

A.C. IS A CASE FOR THE COURTS NOW.

Lynn Paltrow and Bob Sylvester, both representing A.C., are trying to get a full appellate panel to hear their case. Obviously there is nothing they can do for their client, but they do not want the Superior Court ruling to become a precedent for women in similar predicaments in the future. Paltrow and Sylvester see themselves as defending the rights of the dying, the handicapped and pregnant women. "This case denies privacy rights to pregnant women," Paltrow says. "It tells women that the state can control and monitor every aspect of their lives, like prenatal police patrols." Dozens of organizations, including the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Women's Association, Planned Parenthood, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Organization for Women and the Women's Legal Defense Fund have filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting A.C.'s lawyers.

Mishkin, for her part, feels the case was handled properly. She says she understands the ACLU's general feelings about the rights of the dying and forced treatment, but she doesn't feel the A.C. case fits the pattern. In the past, Mishkin has defended a patient's right to refuse treatment. "But I was convinced then and I'm convinced now . . . that this woman wanted that baby. She risked her life for that baby." As for the ACLU, she says, "They have misread the facts in this case."

Now the lawyers wait for the resolution of "In Re A.C." And it will be resolved probably no later than the end of the year. The "case" of Angela Carder, though, was something fuller. She was a young woman who loved her own life, and found value enough in it to share it with other kids. Hi! My name is Angie Carder, she once wrote. I wanted to tell you my story . . . It all happened so sudden, getting cancer and all . . . ::