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Wednesday, 6 September, 2000, 16:09 GMT 17:09 UK
Experts back twins' separation
St Mary's Hospital, Manchester
The girls were born at St Mary's Hospital, Manchester
Medical experts have supported proposals to separate a pair of Siamese twins at the centre of a court battle.

The Court of Appeal has heard a second team of doctors give their "broad support" to an operation to separate the month-old twins, named Jodie and Mary to protect their identity.

The operation is likely to save Jodie but kill her weaker sister.

Three senior judges called on a team from Great Ormond Street Hospital for children in London to allay any public fears that they might "rush to judgment" over whether or not to allow the operation.

You invite us to treat her as a single independent life when everyone knows that if she had been born a single person she would have been left to die

Lord Justice Ward

Doctors at St Mary's Hospital in Manchester, where the twins were born, say not operating means both children, who are joined at the lower abdomen, could die within three to six months.

The parents, who are Roman Catholic and cannot be named, believe that separating them is "not God's will" and want nature to take its course, even if that means the loss of both children.

Adrian Whitfield QC, appearing for Central Manchester Healthcare Trust and the Manchester doctors, argued that the operation must go ahead to save Jodie, even if that means the death of Mary.

The court heard Mary was alive only because she was attached to her "bright and alert" sister and relies on her heart and lung functions.

The Great Ormond Street team - a surgeon experienced in separating Siamese twins and a paediatric cardiologist - have both examined the children.

'Save Jodie, murder Mary'

David Harris QC, appointed by the Official Solicitor to act in the interests of Mary, said there were some differences of opinion with the Manchester doctors.

Mr Justice Johnson
The ruling to separate the twins was made by Mr Justice Johnson

"But, broadly speaking, the Great Ormond Street evidence is unlikely to affect the thrust of the submissions," he told the court on Wednesday.

Lord Justice Ward, sitting with Lord Justice Brooke and Lord Justice Robert Walker, are hearing the parents' appeal against a High Court decision last month giving permission for the operation to be carried out.

The consultants are not expected to be called to give evidence but will submit a written report.

Sleepless nights

Lord Justice Ward, who said the case has already caused him sleepless nights, said the barristers had to persuade the court that it could exercise parental jurisdiction and say: "Save Jodie but murder Mary."

"I put it starkly, but that may be what you are inviting the court to do," he said.

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

Attempting to test the case from a religious viewpoint because of the parents' views, Lord Justice Ward put forward the argument that it was not God's will that Mary should live.

He also suggested that Mr Harris's submission was artificial.

"You invite us to treat her as a single independent life when everyone knows that if she had been born a single person she would have been left to die.

"She is unnaturally hooked onto her sister, draining her sister's life and, in the end, is going to kill her sister.

"She was incapable of living, that's why she wouldn't be treated - she is not capable of independent life."

The judges adjourned the case until 13 September.

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See also:

05 Sep 00 | Health
Expert to see Siamese twins
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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