Jodie and Mary: whose choice was it anyway?
That Gracie, the survivor of the Jodie and Mary Siamese twins, is doing well and returning home to Gozo with her parents shows that the judges' decision in this case was right. But it does not alter the fact that judges should not make these decisions.
by John Fitzpatrick
The operation to separate the Siamese or conjoined twins Jodie and Mary took place in Manchester, England, in November 2000, after months of wrangling in the courts.
Mary died, as it was known she would. Jodie, or Gracie, survived and is now a bright 10-month-old, returning home to Gozo with her parents. The court has spoken, the doctors are satisfied, the parents were granted a full TV interview to express their views, and Gracie has the chance of a normal life.
Case closed? Hardly. The case brought into focus so many difficult and far-reaching issues in family and criminal law that the debate is likely to go on for years. One of the most important questions to emerge was one that challenged the role of the law itself: who should decide the fate of newborn children in such circumstances - their parents or the courts?
Jodie and Mary were born on 8 August 2000 at St Mary's Hospital in Manchester, joined together at the lower abdomen. They each had their own head, arms, legs, brain, heart, lungs, kidneys and liver. The only shared organ was a bladder. There were severe ano-urogenital abnormalities and serious problems arising from the fusion of pelvic bones and the tips of their spines. Jodie seemed to have normal brain development, and her main organs were all working well. Mary had primitive brain function, her heart barely functioned, and her lungs did not function at all. She was surviving only as a result of Jodie's heart pumping blood around her body. This effort was expected to weaken Jodie quite quickly and lead to her death, and thus that of Mary too, in about three to six months.
When the parents came to Britain seeking...