- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 12, 2000

British courts decided to take the role of God by ruling Siamese twins should receive experimental medical treatment which has caused the death of the weaker twin. The surgery, completed early Tuesday morning, left the stronger twin in critical condition and the weaker one dead. Though the Roman Catholic parents had wanted God to decide the fate of their children, the courts ruled that Mary, the weaker twin, didn't have the same right to live as her sister Jodie.
"Though Mary has a right to life, she has little right to be alive," Justice Alan Ward said, summarizing the unanimous ruling by the three judges of the British Court of Appeals in September. "She is alive because and only because to put it bluntly, but nonetheless accurately she sucks the lifeblood of Jodie and her parasitic living will soon be the cause of Jodie ceasing to live."
The court's ruling was unjust in two respects. First, by using the premise that one child is less worthy of life than another because of her physical handicaps, the court sets a dangerous precedent for future rulings that operations causing certain death be allowed based on physical fitness. Second, by forcing the children to have experimental surgery against the parents' will, the courts were defying even common medical practice.
"When in medical ethics have we ever told a patient, or a surrogate for a patient, that their child has to undergo experimental medical care?" Dr. Gene Rudd, a prenatal and obstetrics physician and the associate director for the Christian Medical and Dental Society said in an interview. "They couldn't even guarantee either child would survive the surgery," he said.
The condition of twins being conjoined is very rare, with only one case in every 50,000 to 100,000 live births. Every set of conjoined twins is different, often joined to each other at different places in the body and sharing different vital organs. Because of this, forcing a family to endure the consequences of a ruling based on medical recommendations that have little or no historical precedent defies both medical reason and ethics.
From a legal perspective, the case of the Siamese twins, born this August, is a ground-breaking one. A 1996 Connecticut Supreme Court decision ruled a Jehovah's Witness could not be forced to accept a blood transfusion against their religious beliefs to prevent orphaning their child. But the case of Jodie and Mary (the girls' pseudonyms) is even more compelling. Blood transfusions have been performed thousands of times and been medically proven to save the lives of patients. But the courts were requiring the Maltese family not only to defy their religious convictions, but to subscribe to a rarely tested medical procedure with no certain outcome.
The courts should be used to protect innocent lives, not to end them. By forcing the family to make a decision with uncertain ethical and medical ramifications, the court unjustly set a precedent for rulings that would cheapen human life, not defend it.

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