Second team backs separation of Siamese twins

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The Independent Online

A second team of medical specialists appointed by the Court of Appeal said yesterday that Jodie and Mary, the Siamese twins joined at the abdomen, should be separated, although that will mean death for the weaker of the two, Mary.

A second team of medical specialists appointed by the Court of Appeal said yesterday that Jodie and Mary, the Siamese twins joined at the abdomen, should be separated, although that will mean death for the weaker of the two, Mary.

The two doctors, from Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, were asked by three senior judges this week to give a second opinion.Doctors from St Mary's Hospital, Manchester wish to perform the operation.

Yesterday, David Harris QC, appointed by the Official Solicitor to act in the interests of Mary, told the judges that the Great Ormond Street team - a paediatric cardiologist and a surgeon experienced in cases involving separation of Siamese twins - had now both examined the twins at St Mary's Hospital. Mr Harris said: "The situation is that the two consultants from Great Ormond Street, in broad outline, support the opinion of the team from St Mary's."

The case has led to public concern that the operation, which offers Jodie the chance to live but means death for her sister, could amount to "unlawful killing" or "murder" of Mary. Medical experts say not operating will mean both children are likely to die within three to six months. The parents, who cannot be named, oppose separation, even if it means the loss of both children.

Yesterday, Lord Justice Ward, sitting with Lord Justice Brooke and Lord Justice Walker, said he had been having sleepless nights over the case.

He said that Adrian Whitfield QC, appearing for Central Manchester Healthcare Trusts and the doctors who want to do the operation, had to persuade the court that it could exercise parental jurisdiction and say: "Save Jodie but murder Mary." He said: "I put it starkly, but that may be what you are inviting the court to do."

The judge said he had put the case at its extreme to emphasise the dilemma as people listening in court and outside "will perceive it to be murder or unlawful killing".

Lord Justice Brooke said an operation to separate the twins would amount to a positive act "with death as a virtual certainty" for Mary and thus establish the necessary "criminal intent" for an offence of unlawful killing.

But Mr Whitfield argued that a failure of the court to allow the operation to go ahead would amount to an abnegation of its responsibilities to Jodie. He said the interests of Mary, who was in effect incapable of an independent life and facing an early death, had to be balanced against those of Jodie, who did stand a chance of living if the operation went ahead.

Lord Justice Ward said: "If what you propose is the murder of Mary, then at the moment I don't see how you have the interests of one balanced against the other."

He suggested that from a religious standpoint, it was not God's will that Mary should live. "It was not God's will that this baby should live because it was not born with the capacity to live and death is inevitable - as it is for all of us - but this child wasn't naturally capable of life and would die and there would be no point.

"Nobody in their right mind would hook this child on to a life support system given the utter deformity of her heart and lungs," Lord Justice Ward said. "And so what is the benefit of a compromised life - compromised by nature and by unhappy circumstance?"

Mr Harris said that Mary had an interest in continuing her life, unless it was demonstrated that such an interest did not exist.

"Although this is a life of short duration, very severely handicapped, there is insufficient evidence that it is so intolerable as to render it in the child's best interests that it should end," Mr Harris said.

The hearing continues.