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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Conjoined twins case: sympathy for St Albans babies and ethical objections

4 February 2002

Conjoined twins case: sympathy for St Albans babies and ethical objections Westminster, 4 February 2002--The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) has expressed its sympathy and concern for the St Albans conjoined unborn twins, Courtney and Natasha. The Society also expressed deep concern for the parents of the children, grappling with the medical and emotional difficulties they face with the twins. SPUC General Secretary, Paul Tully said: "We are encouraged that there appears to be hope for the survival of both the babies, and we would question why a decision to try to separate them has apparently been taken, and announced, at such an early stage. The doctors must be well aware that if the parents objected to surgery they can ask the courts to overrule the parents. This is what happened in the case of the Maltese couple in Manchester in 2000*. We are very concerned that the parents will face enormous pressure if they try to change their mind and save both their babies. "We fully support the use of the best surgical and medical skills to help the twins, but we would urge the doctors to observe the principle that they should not do harm in the hope that good may come of it. They should not end the life of one twin for the sake of the other. "A parallel could be drawn where doctors had two unrelated patients, one dying of liver failure, with a good heart, and one dying of heart failure, with a good liver. By the logic applied here, doctors could decide to remove the good organ from the weaker patient in order to save the stronger. This would deny equal value and dignity of the weaker patient. "In the case of Natasha and Courtney, the doctors seem to be taking the approach that a 'normal' life for one is better than both living but conjoined. What does this say of people with disabilities? Are they of less value than others?" concluded Mr Tully. * The court of appeal ruled in the case of Gracie and Rosie Attard (the Maltese conjoined twins, known as "Jodie and Mary" in court), that the girls should be separated in spite the fact that this would cause the death of Rosie, and in spite of their parents' objection.

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