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Tuesday, 24 October, 2000, 15:56 GMT 16:56 UK
Date set for Siamese op
Jodie and Mary sketch
Siamese twins Jodie and Mary are joined at the spine
A date has been set for the operation to separate Siamese twins Jodie and Mary - but the hospital is refusing to reveal it.

It was always expected that the procedure - which will result in the certain death of Mary - would take place when the twins, born in August, were approximately three months old, in early to mid-November.

The twins' parents, from the Maltese island of Gozo, are fiercely opposed to the operation on religious grounds, but the Court of Appeal decided last month that it should go ahead.

Despite the enormous publicity surrounding the court case, the hospital, St Mary's in Manchester, is determined that the exact date of the operation should remain secret.

The spokesman said: "The operation will not take place in the next two to three weeks. If the date is revealed then we will be forced to move it."

Shared blood

The twins are joined at the abdomen, have a fused spine and share the same blood supply.

Jodie has a normal brain, heart, lung and liver. She appears to have a separate bowel, although the twins share a bladder.

She has two normal legs and a dislocated pelvic joint which has made the limbs lie at right angles to the spine.

Mary feeds on Jodie's vital organs to survive. Her heart and lungs are so poorly developed that she is totally dependent on her sister for oxygen and blood circulation.

Doctors believe that Jodie could survive separation because her long-term problems are "functional" rather than life threatening.

However, there is a significant chance that she too could die following the operation.

The only current threat posed to Jodie, say doctors, is that Mary is sapping her strength. They have said that they are prepared to operate early if this threat intensifies.

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29 Sep 00 | Health
Jodie and Mary: The operation
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