Judges, parents neglect duty to Siamese twins

SAN DIEGO (U-WIRE) — Should conjoined twins be separated if one twin must be sacrificed to save the other? With whom does this decision ultimately lay?
These are the questions, and they are not simply answered.
Mary and Jodie are false names given to protect the identity of a pair of conjoined, or Siamese, twins delivered in England on Aug. 8.
Mary is underdeveloped. She and her sister share a heart and lungs and are joined at the lower abdomen — though the word “share” implies a certain equality that is missing in the infants’ relationship. Mary’s brain is not fully formed, and she relies heavily on her sister to benefit from the function of their mutual organs.
Where Jodie is functioning on a relatively normal level, Mary is largely unresponsive and lives only because her sister lives, unable to function independently.
Does this mean Mary has the same rights as an independently functioning human being? Is Mary only an underdeveloped part of Jodie? Or can the conjoined twins only be thought of together as one independently functioning human being?
England’s High Court and Court of Appeals have ruled that the separation should proceed, with the most recent ruling coming on Sept. 22, setting the procedure for November.
The parents, whose identities are also being withheld, have one last hope for a ruling in their favor from the Law Lords of the House of Lords, before the decision is completely out of their hands.
The judges have concluded that the case is a matter of self-defense for Jodie.
According to news reports, the parents, both devout Roman Catholics, have issued the following statement: “We can not begin to accept or contemplate that one of our children should die to enable the other one to survive. That is not God’s will. Everyone has a right to life, so why should we kill one of our daughters to enable the other one to survive?”
Who is right: the doctors and the government or the parents and God?
Many issues are being raised by the plight of Mary and her sister Jodie, not the least of which include parental control, child abuse, euthanasia and the right to life; the parties involved are trying to resolve these issues through the application of law and faith.
Common sense and logic are really all that need to be applied.
Both England and the parents are, quite frankly, stepping on the toes of the parties who have the largest investment in the final decision — Mary and Jodie. Their opinions are the only opinions that have true jurisdiction over matters that affect their lives, and ironically, they are the only opinions that will never be heard.
Slippery situations arise when the mantle of decision-making is passed to an outside party, whether it be parents or the government — no one but the individuals facing the ramifications of the decision has any right to decide their fate. However, in a case where this voice is silent, an alternate voice must be settled for, but at the same time stringently regulated.
England is overstepping its boundaries in trying to decide the fate of a child over whom it has no authority. Mary and Jodie are from Malta, an island country in the Mediterranean, and neither they nor their parents are citizens of England.
Even simpler, the desire of the parents regarding children of whom they are the guardians supersedes that of the government — unless England is trying to establish a case for child abuse and endangerment on the part of the parents through their decision to forego surgery.
In this case, it’s a low blow on the part of the desperate Brits.
The actual ruling of the courts is poor in itself. Establishing a case for self-defense lacks substance in that Mary is not attacking Jodie in a motivated manner that needs to be defended against — unless she is being compared to a parasite. Rather, this situation involves a process leading to eventual death that needs to be prevented.
There are some decisions in which an impartial third party is the wrong way to go.
However, mom and pop are not wholly right, either.
Denying separation simply on the grounds of religious observance is as irresponsible as England’s jurisdictional God-complex.
As parents, they should have the best interests of their daughters in mind, using their faith as support, not hiding behind it with some obscure reference to “God’s will.” This act is using religion as a cop-out to avoid making a difficult decision.
Furthermore, citing that they understand the prognosis but cannot condone the “active killing” of one of their daughters is naive.
The decision not to act is as active as a decision to act — both decisions have consequences. One set of consequences, however, is better than the other.
Either way, life is being taken; the amount of life is what can be affected.
Following religious doctrine to the point where the life of a healthy child is sacrificed is nonsense. No amount of “God’s will” or “Hail Marys” can justify such an action — it’s plain negligence and indicative of the dangerous qualities in religion and in individuals who blindly follow and adhere.
Apply common sense and logic — with surgery, Jodie will live.
Not intervening will result in a slow death for both, as Jodie falters and succumbs to the strain of maintaining two bodies.
Let Mary go with God, and allow Jodie the chance to live.

Jason Williams’ column originally appeared in San Diego State University’s The Daily Aztec on Sept. 27. Send comments to [email protected]