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The BBC's Niall Dickson
"The Judges have to decide whether it is lawful to end Mary's life"
 real 56k

Family Lawyer, John Kitchingham
"The parents feel it would be wrong to change the natural course of the childrens conditions"
 real 56k

Child law specialist, Allan Levy
"A wholly exceptional situation"
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Monday, 4 September, 2000, 15:52 GMT 16:52 UK
Medical opinion sought over twins
St Mary's Hospital, Manchester
The girls were born at St Mary's Hospital, Manchester
A judge has asked for further medical opinion in the case of Siamese twins whose parents do not want them to be separated.

Lord Justice Ward is one of three appeal judges who will decide whether the doctors should go ahead and separate the twins.

Speaking at the Court of Appeal on Monday, he said he had "deep sympathy" for the parents.

"I cannot but wonder (whether) a second opinion might be of value if only to confirm the views already expressed and to allay any public concern."

An expert team from Great Ormond Street Hospital will now eximine the baby girls on Tuesday.

The twins were born in Manchester last month after their parents travelled from overseas for the birth.

A judge made an order to have the babies separated after hearing that both girls would die if the surgery was not performed. However, separation means one twin will die.

We cannot begin to accept that one of our children should die to enable the other one to survive

Twins' parents
The parents, whose identity is being kept secret, object on religious grounds.

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 and are joined by their lower abdomens.

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.

Physical strain

This is because Jodie's heart and lungs will not be able to take the strain of supporting her sister's body.

But in their submission to the court, the girls' parents said they could not sanction the death of one of their babies.

"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," they said.

The parents came to the UK, after they realised the babies were joined, because there was a lack of medical facilities in their remote community in a Mediterranean country.

Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Rev Cormac Murphy O'Connor told the BBC Radio Four programme Today the case was "very agonising and complex."

He said the moral principle that it was wrong to do evil, even if it resulted in good, had to be balanced against the need to save a life.

"It does seem to me that the wishes and instinct of the parents are very, very important in this case."

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Siamese twins
Should the parents have the final say?

Siamese twins' parents face the ultimate test
Religion vs medicine

See also:

04 Sep 00 | UK
The ultimate test of faith
25 Aug 00 | Health
Siamese twins 'must be separated'
25 Aug 00 | Q-S
Siamese twins
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