Parents end legal fight over Siamese twins

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The Independent Online

The parents of Jodie and Mary, the Siamese twins who are joined at the abdomen, will not appeal against a court ruling that the two must be separated.

The parents of Jodie and Mary, the Siamese twins who are joined at the abdomen, will not appeal against a court ruling that the two must be separated.

The parents oppose the operation, which will mean certain death for Mary, but their lawyers said yesterday that they were unable to take the case any further.

The Official Solicitor, acting on behalf of Mary, who shares a heart and lungs with her stronger sister, said that after "the most anxious deliberation" he had also decided not to take the Court of Appeal's decision to the House of Lords.

In the first case of its kind, three senior judges ruled last week that Mary was "designated for death" and that Jodie had the right, with the aid of doctors, to defend herself against her "parasitic" sister, who was "sucking her lifeblood".

The parents are devout Roman Catholics, from the island of Gozo, off Malta, which has reciprocal healthcare arrangements with Britain. They came to seek help when a scan three months into the pregnancy revealed the mother was carrying Siamese twins. The parents believed both daughters could be saved by surgery, but fought against any medical intervention once it was realised that Mary would have to die to save her sister.

If the twins are not separated doctors believe they would have an 80 to 90 per cent chance of both being dead within six months. "We cannot begin to accept or contemplate that one of our children should die to enable the other to survive," the parents said in a written statement to the court.

The parents' lawyer, John Kitchingman of Pannone & Partners, said yesterday that the parents accepted the court's decision. "The parents, having taken this case to two courts before four judges, whose decision was unanimous, feel they have done the best they can for both daughters and are unable to take this any further.

"Clearly there are difficult times ahead for the family and everyone is asked to respect their wish for privacy at what is a particularly tragic and sensitive time," he said.

If Jodie survives the 12-hour operation, which is likely to be done when the twins are three months old, she will face many more painful operations to enable her to live a normal life. She will have to have reconstructive surgery on her lower abdomen, rectum and possibly her vagina.

Jodie and Mary are most likely to be separated by doctors from St Mary's Hospital in Manchester, where they have been looked after since they were born on August 8. Only surgeons from St Mary's, who have operated on two sets of Siamese twins, and doctors from Great Ormond Street, who have operated on 17 pairs of Siamese twins since 1985, have any experience of the complex separation operation.

Bruno Quintavalle, of the Pro-Life Alliance, who condemned last week's ruling as "deplorable", said the parents should remove their children from Britain. "The offer of full and free care in Italy still stands," he said. "The state can't make children wards of court in order to kill them."

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Cormac Murphy O'Connor, who made a statement to the Appeal Court, argued against separation, but said he could understand the parents' decision not to continue with the case.

Laurence Oates, the Official Solicitor, said: "I am satisfied that the decision will not set a precedent which would undermine... the respect for the sanctity of life and the belief that all life has equal value, which I have been most concerned to uphold."