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The BBC's David Willis
"The moral and ethical considerations may be more complex"
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BBC Health Correspondent Richard Hannaford
"Nobody knows for sure how long the twins will live"
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Thursday, 14 September, 2000, 16:35 GMT 17:35 UK
Siamese twins 'could live for years'
Jodie and Mary
A sketch of Mary and Jodie
Siamese twins Jodie and Mary may be able to stay alive joined together for years, the Court of Appeal has been told.

Experts from Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, asked for a second opinion on the medical condition of the twins, said there was a small chance that they might live beyond the few months originally predicted.

One surgeon said that while they were unlikely to live long-term, it was possible that they might live a few years.

Jodie and Mary's devout Roman Catholic parents are strongly opposed to an operation to separate them, as this would certainly lead to the death of Mary, the weaker twin.

I'm aware that that raises a horrible spectre of survival going into years - God knows how many years - but it exists

Simon Taylor QC
Simon Taylor QC, counsel for the parents, said: "It can't really be said that left together the twins are certain to die - we just don't know.

"I'm aware that that raises a horrible spectre of survival going into years - God knows how many years - but it exists."

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.

The court was even asked to consider whether, if the parents refused to allow the separation to take place, they could conceivably be charged with murder.

The Archbishop of Westminster believes that the twins should be allowed to die naturally.

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.

Archbishop of Westminster
The Archbishop of Westminster submitted his views
Other doctors have consistently said that both girls will die within a few months unless they are separated.

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

A barrister for the alliance said that any decision to try to save Jodie by killing Mary would breach the European Convention on Human Rights.

'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.

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

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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