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BBC Health Correspondent Richard Hannaford
"The case has already caused sleepness nights"
 real 28k

Thursday, 14 September, 2000, 06:16 GMT 07:16 UK
'Don't separate twins' says archbishop
Doctors say both twins will die if surgery is not performed
The Siamese twins born to devout Catholic parents should be allowed to die naturally, says the Archbishop of Westminster.

The leader of Roman Catholics in England and Wales, the Most Rev Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, said in a written submission to the Court of Appeal that the pair should not be separated if it causes the death of one sister.

The court wrestling with the fate of the twins has heard from doctors that the life of one twin can be saved - but only if she is separated from other, who would then die.

Archbishop of Westminster
The court asked the archbishop for a written submission of his views
Doctors have also said that both girls will die within a few months unless they are separated. The girls' parents oppose surgery.

The court gave the Pro-Life Group as well as the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster permission to make written submissions on the case to help decide the fate of the twins.

'Heart-rending case'

A spokesman for the archbishop said: "The reason the archbishop has offered to make a written submission is to offer some reflections based on Catholic moral teaching which may be of assistance to the Appeal Court judges in deciding on this tragic and heart-rending case."

The twins were born at St Mary's Hospital in Manchester one month ago.

They are joined at their lower abdomens, with their heads at the opposite ends of their merged bodies and their legs emerging at right angles from each side.

On Wednesday, the court was told of concerns that Mary, who has no hope of survival, appeared to be growing at the expense of her healthier sister Jodie, who was not thriving as surgeons would expect.

It may be that Mary is drawing nutrition from Jodie and growing at her expense

Adrian Whitfield QC
If an operation to separate them goes ahead, Mary, the weaker of the two, will certainly die, while Jodie has a chance of survival.

However if the operation does not go ahead experts say both are likely to die within three to six months.

Their parents, from a Catholic community in a Mediterranean country, strongly oppose the operation on moral grounds, saying it is "God's will" that both should die.

The archbishop had earlier expressed the view it could not be right for the court to override the wishes of the parents.

Doctors and the Central Manchester Healthcare Trust have taken court action to allow the operation to go ahead.

The High Court ruled that the operation should go ahead, but the official solicitor has appealed on behalf of the weaker twin.

Medical update

On Wednesday, a QC for the doctors gave an update on the medical condition of the twins.

Mr Adrian Whitfield QC, appearing for Central Manchester Healthcare Trust and the doctors, said Jodie was not growing as the surgeon treating her would expect, while her sister was "growing normally".

He said: "From the physical point of view, Jodie is not growing, although she is eating well.

"The surgeon thinks it may be that Mary is drawing nutrition from Jodie and growing at her expense.

"This could have implications for the timing of the operation (if separation is sanctioned by the courts), but there is no immediate rush."

Mr Whitfield said the surgeon would continue to monitor the twins' progress over the next week or so.

He said that unless Jodie continued to grow in a normal way the best time for surgery to take place would be when the twins reached the age of three months.

Advice from judges

Earlier Lord Justice Ward said judges in Australia, South Africa and Canada had been contacted to see if there were any similar cases to give guidance. But there was none.

Nicola Davies QC, for the Attorney-General, who is not a party to the action but is assisting the court, said that the parents in the case would not be criminally culpable in not consenting to the operation, even though that would lead to Jodie's death.

Lord Justice Ward said that the parents were "on the horns of an irreconcilable dilemma", which was one of the "ghastly" features of the case.

The appeal continues.

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See also:

25 Aug 00 | Health
Siamese twins 'must be separated'
06 Sep 00 | Health
Experts back twins' separation
12 Sep 00 | Health
Jodie and Mary: The medical facts
11 Sep 00 | UK
Judging a moral minefield
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