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Friday, 22 September, 2000, 14:52 GMT 15:52 UK
Siamese twins: A surgeon's view
Siamese Twins
Operations to separate Siamese twins are difficult
Very few doctors in the world have carried out an operation to separate Siamese twins.

One doctor who has performed the surgery is Dr Harry Applebaum, a surgeon at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Los Angeles.

He believes the operation to separate Jodie and Mary should go ahead.

"My personal feeling would be that I would hate to see both twins die when one could be saved."

Speaking to the BBC, Dr Applebaum said if the operation gives one of the twins a chance of a "normal" life then it should proceed.

"I think in medicine we constantly strive to save people and not only to save people but to save them in a condition where they function very normally.

Harry Applebaum
Dr Applebaum backs surgery on the twins

"I think in this situation we do have a person who can function normally following an operation.

"On the other hand we have a person who probably never will function normally. I think most doctors I am aware of would try to salvage somebody who can have a fairly normal life."

The operation

Despite the huge strides in medical technology and surgery in recent years, doctors in the UK have warned that an operation to separate Jodie and Mary would not be straight-forward.

Dr Applebaum agrees and suggests that those carrying out the operation will be nervous.

"I think you have to be nervous. You think you know what you are going to find inside the connection between the babies but you really don't know," he said.

"What you have is a good guess - as much as technology will allow you to figure out. But often that is not good enough. Often you still have surprises and you have to work through these surprises."

Dr Applebaum also shares the view that both girls will die unless an operation to separate them goes ahead.

"Obviously I haven't really seen the twins. I don't know the details.

I would hate to see both twins die when one could be saved

Dr Harry Applebaum

"But if one twin really is supplying most of the blood supply for the other one then it wouldn't be very long because you would get into a situation of what we called heart failure where the pump, that is the heart, finally gives out because it is trying to do too much."

Nevertheless, Dr Applebaum supports the concept of the courts deciding whether the operation should take place.

"I think it's a good way - to have somebody who is not emotionally attached to the situation, who is not actually going to perform the operation to receive these fairly unbiased opinions and make a fairly unbiased decision as to what should be done."

But Dr Applebaum is adamant that nature should not be allowed to run its course, which in this case would see both twins die.

"I don't think we can just allow things to really go on as they are or we should have got rid of all physicians long ago," he said.

"I think if we left things to run their natural course we would probably all die by the age of 30 from infectious diseases."

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22 Sep 00 | Health
Siamese twins verdict due
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