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Friday, 22 September, 2000, 13:54 GMT 14:54 UK
Ethics expert: twin decision wrong
Prof Ranaan Gillon
An ethical expert has criticised the Appeal Court decision
The Court of Appeal decision to allow the operation to separate the Siamese twins is unethical and wrong, according to an expert.

Raanon Gillon, professor of medical ethics at Imperial College London and editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics, said the court should have allowed the parents to decide.

Professor Gillon said he personally would give the go-ahead to an operation if he was in the same position as the parents.

But he added that the court should only have taken the parents' views into consideration, regardless of what they were.

"It's far better to let the parents decide. I have to say that if I were making the decision myself and if I were convinced that one child would be saved then I personally would chose the operation.

Either decision is a tragic decision

Professor Raanon Gillon, Imperial College London

"But I don't think my view or anybody else's view should be imposed on parents who conscientiously choose the opposite."

"I think both ways are legitimate and I think the decision should be left to the parents."

The Court of Appeal had heard that without the operation the two twins, Jodie and Mary would die.

The judges were told that if the operation went ahead, Jodie the stronger twin would be expected to survive while Mary the weaker twin would almost certainly die.


Professor Gillon said the decision by the Court of Appeal to allow doctors to carry out the operation raised questions about parental consent.

"It has quite clearly removed parental consent from these parents and in my view quite illegitimately.

"There are good reasons for removing parental consent - when the parents are being negligent or when they have really weird views that would result in the deaths of their children.

"But these parents do not have really weird views. They have very standard views, the most important of which is you don't kill one person in order to save another."

Raanon Gillon
Raanon Gillon: The decision is wrong

He said he would support the idea of taking the case to the House of Lords for a final ruling.

"I think it would be a very beneficial impact on the law of this country if its confirmed by the House of Lords that the parents should make this decision.

"I think generally speaking it is an excellent principle that parents are the best people to decide health care decisions on behalf of their young children."

But he said the Court of Appeal judges were wrong to decide in favour of the doctors who want to separate the twins.

"I think it's wrong. I think this is a very classical example of a moral dilemma where two standard positions are in a clashing situation.

"I think it would have been far better for the court to say this is a moral decision for the parents to make.

"There is no justification for removing from them their normal prerogative for making treatment decisions on behalf of their children."

But he added: "Either decision is a tragic decision. If they decide to leave God's will to pass then both children will die.

"If they decide to intervene or let the doctors intervene then they will in effect be responsible for the death of one of the children in order to save the other.

"For many people that is a morally intolerable decision. I think both ways are legitimate and both ways should be left to the parents to decide."

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See also:

22 Sep 00 | Health
Siamese twins verdict due
22 Sep 00 | Health
Siamese twins: An expert's view
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