Judges order separation of Siamese twins

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The Siamese twins Jodie and Mary, who are joined at the abdomen, must be separated to give one a chance of life even though it will mean certain death for her weaker sister, the Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.

The Siamese twins Jodie and Mary, who are joined at the abdomen, must be separated to give one a chance of life even though it will mean certain death for her weaker sister, the Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.

In the first case of its kind in Britain, three senior judges unanimously ruled that Mary, who relies on her sister's heart and lungs, was "designated for death" and Jodie had the right, with the aid of doctors, to defend herself against the sister who was "sucking her life blood".

The final ruling could now go to the House of Lords, as the parents and solicitors acting for Mary were given permission to appeal. The judges upheld last month's High Court ruling and said that the complex surgical operation should be carried out, despite the parents' opposition.

The parents, who are devout Roman Catholics from the Mediterranean island of Gozo, off Malta, have fought against medical intervention. "We cannot begin to accept or contemplate that one of our children should die to enable the other to survive. That is not God's will," they said in an earlier statement.

Lord Justice Ward, sitting with Lord Justice Brooke and Lord Justice Robert Walker, said they had all "truly agonised over this difficult case". He expressed profound sympathy for the twins' family. He said the unique and crucial feature was that the twins shared a common aorta, enabling Jodie to sustain Mary's life by oxygenating her blood He said Mary was only alive because "she sucks the lifeblood of Jodie and her parasitic living will soon be the cause of Jodie ceasing to live.

"Nobody but the doctors can help Jodie. Mary is sadly beyond any help," he said. "The sad fact is that she lives on borrowed time, all of it borrowed from her sister. She is incapable of independent existence. She is designated for death."

Medical experts believe that if they are not separated both have an 80 per cent chance of dying within six months as Jodie's heart would fail. But there is a chance they could live joined for several years. Lord Justice Ward said he was aware the judgment was controversial and would offend many people.

Pro-life organisations condemned the ruling as "deplorable". Bruno Quintvalle, spokesman for the Pro-Life Alliance, said: "The judges simply didn't consider the human rights implications. The green light has been given to further attacks on human life and the dignity of people at their most vulnerable."

Murphy O'Connor, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, said he was "particularly concerned that a precedent might be set in English law that could allow an innocent person to be killed, or lethally assaulted, to prolong the life of another. "If such a precedent has indeed been set I would have profound misgivings about the court's decision," he said.

John Kitchingham, the family's solicitor, said the twins' parents would now consider an appeal to the House of Lords or the European Court of Human Rights. "The parents will be disappointed that the court has not accepted the powerful submissions that have been made on their behalf. They will maintain their views, their stance on the moral issue and their view of what should happen to their own children," he said.

Laurence Oates, the Official Solicitor appointed by the High Court to represent the interests of Mary, said that despite the judgment, he understood that surgery would not take place until he and the parents had decided whether to appeal. "It is understood there will be a short period for both the parents and myself to decide whether to appeal to the House of Lords," he said.