Satisfied that a court order to sacrifice the life of one Siamese twin to save the other does not undermine the belief that all life has equal value, the government attorney representing the girl who would die has agreed not to appeal the ruling.
The twins' parents, who are Maltese and Roman Catholics, said last week they also will not appeal the decision, a position that has been criticized by British prolife organizations.
Twins Mary and Jodie are joined at the base of their spines with their legs at right angles to their body. Mary is unable to survive on her own. Her heart, lungs, and brain are said only to be rudimentary. An Appeal Court judge said she was "draining the life-blood" of her healthier sister, Jodie, and was growing at her expense.
Unless the twins are separated, medical experts told the court, both will die. To save Jodie the court ruled that the twins must be separated, an operation which physicians say will result in Mary's death. One judge said she was "designated for death."
The operation to separate the twins could take place early next month. The longer it is delayed, the greater the risk to Jodie of brain damage, doctors have said. But even without Mary, there is no guarantee that Jodie will survive. There also is a risk she may never walk because of the damage to her nerves that will result from severing her spine from Mary's.
The parents begged the court to leave the twins alone and "let God decide." The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, said it is never defensible to take a life to save a life. He worried that the case could set a precedent for lawful killing.
But Laurence Oates, the official solicitor representing Mary, said after discussions with the parents he does not intend to appeal. He described the court's decision as "specific to the unique and tragic facts of this case," and added, "I am satisfied that the decision will not set a precedent which would undermine the principles of law (concerning) the sanctity of life and the belief that all life has equal value, which I have been most concerned to uphold."
Yet at times during the case the language used to describe Mary suggested she was a lesser form of life than her sister. Mary was described as "unviable" and "parasitical," and Lord Justice Brooke asked of the court: "What is this creature in the eyes of law?"
The implication of such language worries pro-life supporters. Kevin Male of Life said, "When you kill, you dehumanize yourself." He regretted the parents' decision not to appeal further to the House of Lords or the European Court of Human Rights. A spokesman from the Pro-Life Alliance supporting Mary's case suggested the parents should take the twins out of the country to avoid "the killing of an innocent life." The alliance believes that the parents should accept the offer of an Italian clergyman to take care of the twins.
But according to family solicitor John Kitchingman, the parents "feel they have done the best they can for both daughters and are unable to take this any further."
"I can well understand that the parents feel unable to continue what has become an arduous and protracted legal process, and one which they did not initiate," said Archbishop Murphy-O'Connor. "My thoughts and prayers are with them and their two children at this difficult time."
Copyright © 2000 Newsroom
The most recent development in this story is that a British surgeon is asking that in the future his hospital be designated as the center for excellence in treating conjoined twins. His request implies that St. Mary's, where the twins are being treated and where they have never performed a twin separation, is perhaps not the best place for the procedure to be done. Read more in Baby hospital 'not asked for help' from The Guardian.
Read Christianity Today's previous story about Mary and Jodie.
In a related story, two U.S. conjoined twins were separated this past weekend:
Seattle Conjoined Twins Separated—Associated Press (Oct. 2, 2000)
U.S. conjoined twins separated by surgery—CNN (Oct. 2, 2000)
Conjoined Twin Girls In Seattle Are Separated—Chicago Tribune (Oct. 2, 2000)
Past coverage of the twins' court battle includes:
The Ultimate Sacrifice—The Washington Post (Sept. 24, 2000)
Court OK's Separation of Conjoined Twins—The Dallas Morning News (Sept. 24, 2000)
Parents of conjoined twins say they'll leave surviving girl behind—Virtual New York (Sept. 24, 2000)
Why Change the Rules for Twins Like Them?—The Washington Post (Sept. 23, 2000)
British Judges OK Surgery to Separate Twins—Los Angeles Times (Sept. 23, 2000)
Court rules Siamese twin 'sucks lifeblood' of sibling—The National Post (Sept. 23, 2000)
Copyright © 2000 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.