Parents of Siamese twins to fight judge's ruling

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The Independent Online

The parents of Siamese twin girls born joined at the abdomen are to challenge last week's High Court decision ordering surgeons to separate them by sacrificing one to save the other.

The parents of Siamese twin girls born joined at the abdomen are to challenge last week's High Court decision ordering surgeons to separate them by sacrificing one to save the other.

In a brief statement yesterday, solicitors for the parents said they were lodging an appeal against Mr Justice Johnson's ruling that the stronger of the twins must be saved even though it meant certain death for her sister.

The statement, from the Manchester firm Pannone and Partners, said no further details would be given and appealed for privacy for the parents "at what is a tragic and sensitive time".

The case will be heard by three judges of the Court of Appeal in London on Monday. They will have to decide whether to back the parents, who oppose an operation to separate the girls because it would force them to choose to save one at the expense of the other, or the surgeons who say both will die if the operation is not carried out.

The girls, born at St Mary's Hospital, Manchester on 8 August, have not been identified but were given the names Jodie and Mary by the judge. They share a single heart and lungs but while Jodie is bright and alert, Mary cannot cry out or breathe for herself and lives only because she is attached to her sister. Doctors say both will die within three to six months if nothing is done.

The parents, who are said to be extremely distressed by the High Court decision, are understood to be Roman Catholics and live in a remote rural community on a Mediterranean island. They came to Britain in May when they discovered they were expecting Siamese twins because medical facilities on the island were not adequate. Their care is being provided on the NHS under a reciprocal agreement between the governments.

In a written submission to the judge last week, they said that they wanted to take their daughters home and would let God decide what happened to them.

Surgeons had told them that even if Jodie was saved, she might be seriously disabled and as there were no facilities to look after a seriously disabled child in their home country they might have to place her for adoption. That could mean they would never see her again, which would break their hearts.

"We have very strong feelings that neither of our children should receive any medical treatment. We certainly do not want separation surgery to go ahead. We have faith in God and we are quite happy for God's will to decide what happens to our two young daughters," they said.

The Official Solicitor, who represented Mary at last week's High Court hearing, said yesterday that he would not be making a separate appeal but would be represented at Monday's hearing.

An Italian cardinal offered the family a "safe haven" in a hospital apartment earlier this week, with free medical treatment to avoid the operation.