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Monday, 28 August, 2000, 05:42 GMT 06:42 UK
Italian 'safe haven' for Siamese twins
St Mary's Hospital, Manchester
The girls are being treated at St Mary's Hospital, Manchester
An Italian cardinal has offered a "safe haven" to the parents ordered by the High Court to separate their Siamese twins and let one die.

Cardinal Ersilio Tonini, Archbishop Emeritis of Ravenna, in north-east Italy, has given the parents an "ethical alternative" to going through with the operation, according to ProLife Alliance.

The offer includes "indefinite and completely free medical services" as well as an apartment in an Italian hospital, it said.


The family involved should be offered the possibility to avail themselves of help from a European country which respects their wishes

The ProLife Alliance
In a landmark ruling on Friday, a High Court judge gave surgeons in Manchester permission to separate the two girls, against their parents' wishes. Both will die within months if the operation is not carried out.

In a statement the ProLife Alliance said: "The story of the Manchester twins has moved the Italian nation, as it has in this country.

"The ProLife Alliance believes that the family involved should be offered the possibility to avail themselves of help from a European country which respects their wishes."

The official solicitor - who represents minors or adults under legal disability in court proceedings in England and Wales - is expected to reveal this week whether he will appeal against the judge's decision.

Appeal

Surgeons will not perform the operation until the legal position is made clear.

The twin girls, Jodie and Mary - false names used by the judge to preserve their anonymity - were born on 8 August at St Mary's Hospital in Manchester.

The girls share one heart and one pair of lungs. If the operation goes ahead to separate them, Mary will die.

In the first ruling of its kind in the UK, Mr Justice Johnson said he made his decision to approve the operation on the grounds that if the girls were not separated, both would die within months.

Mr Justice Johnson
The ruling to operate was made by Mr Justice Johnson
This is because Jodie's heart and lungs will not be able to take the strain of supporting her sister's body.

Their mother and father came to the UK after they realised the babies were joined, because there was a lack of medical facilities in their remote community in Eastern Europe.

They objected to the operation on the grounds that it will mean the death of one of their babies.

In written evidence to the court, they said: "We cannot begin to accept or contemplate that one of our children should die to enable the other one to survive. That is not God's will.

"Everyone has the right to life, so why should we kill one of our daughters to enable the other one to survive?"

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See also:

26 Aug 00 | Health
Twins' operation on hold
25 Aug 00 | Health
Siamese twins 'must be separated'
25 Aug 00 | Q-S
Siamese twins
14 Jul 99 | Health
Twin trouble
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