LONDON, Nov. 7 (AP)--Surgeons said Tuesday that they have successfully separated conjoined twin girls in a complex procedure that led to the death of one of the girls but is expected to give her stronger sister a chance at a normal life.
St. Mary's Hospital in Manchester said the stronger twin, known only as "Jodie," was in "critical but stable" condition after the 20-hour surgery that ended at 5 a.m. "Unfortunately despite all of the efforts of the medical team Mary sadly died," the hospital said in a statement. "As with all major surgery, the first few days following an operation are the most critical and our thoughts remain with Jodie and her parents." The hospital provided no details of the complicated procedure, which followed months of legal dispute over whether the parents could refuse surgery and let nature take its course. Jodie and Mary were born at St. Mary's Hospital on Aug. 8, joined at the lower abdomen, and doctors said if they were not separated, both would die within months. Doctors said surgery could allow Jodie to have a normal life, but Mary's heart and lungs were nonfunctional and she would not survive once she was separated from Jodie's aorta. The twins' parents were identified only as Roman Catholics from the Maltese island of Gozo in the Mediterranean. They opposed the operation for religious reasons but decided not to contest a Sept. 22 decision by the Court of Appeal that the girls could be separated. The court had struggled with the issue of whether the surgery would amount to intentionally killing Mary.
Two medical specialists appointed by the court endorsed surgery. "The sad fact is that Mary lives on borrowed time, all of it borrowed from her sister," Lord Justice Alan Ward said in the Court of Appeal ruling. "She is incapable of independent existence. She is designated for death." The official solicitor's office, which represents children's interests in court, had provided legal representation for both children. On Friday, judges rejected a last-minute appeal by the Pro-Life Alliance, an anti-abortion group that wanted the case to be decided in the House of Lords. Doctors say Jodie will probably need further surgery to reconstruct some organs damaged in the surgery, including her rectum, sexual organs and lower abdomen. She is also expected to need skin grafts.