On August 8, 2000, conjoined twins were born to Michaelangelo and Rina Attard. The twin girls, known as Jodie and Mary, were joined at the pelvis and doctors told the parents that medical evidence showed that Jodie was the stronger sibling. Jodie had a normal brain, heart, lungs, and liver but shared a common bladder and a common aorta with Mary.
Mary was considered severely abnormal in three aspects: brain, heart, and lungs. Her heart was in poor condition; it was enlarged, very dilated, and poorly functioning. Additionally, there was virtually no functional lung tissue.
According to doctors, Mary was incapable of independent survival because Mary was entirely dependent on Jodie’s heart through the circulation of blood across a large vascular link. If the link were to be severed, Mary would die.
The parents were told that the best option was to separate the twins because it would give Jodie her best chance at survival. Barring a miracle, the medical opinion was that if the parents refused the surgery both girls would be dead within a few years.
However, Michaelangelo and Rino decided they couldn’t go through with the operation because they were Roman Catholic and didn’t believe they should kill one to save the other. They felt that their daughter’s fate should be left in the hands of God and asked that no medical interventions be utilized.
But the hospital and the girl’s physicians challenged the parental decision and decided to bring the case to court. The lead pediatric surgeon on the case, Dr. Adrian Bianchi, said their team of doctors deliberated tirelessly on the situation and were advised to seek judicial input because their action, that is to allow them both to die by doing nothing, could amount to murder.
Dr. Bianchi said, “I’ve relived the moment, many, many, many a time… We are trained and used to struggling for survival as best we can. We are not in the business of killing children, so it becomes very hard when you know the action you’re about to take is going to lead to the death of someone, however abnormal they may be.”
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The High Court found “the evidence is that in medical terms Jodie’s life would be virtually as long as and would have the quality of that of an ordinary child. For Jodie separation means the expectation of a normal life, for Mary it means death.” Therefore, the court ruled that the hospital should conduct the surgery.
The parents then appealed the decision and asked the court to reconsider. Speaking on behalf of the parents beliefs, the then Archbishop of Westminster, Cormac Murphy O’Connor, said: “Though the duty to preserve life is a serious duty, no such duty exists when the only available means of preserving life involves a grave injustice… the good end would not justify the means.”
The court did not accept the appeal and ordered that the surgery go on as planned. The Judge who ruled on the case was Sir Alan Ward, the former Lord Justice of Appeal. He said it was a difficult decision but said it would be wrong to allow them both to die, when one could be spared. Michaelangelo and Rina didn’t appeal again because they believed God made the choice for them through the court’s decision. Sadly, immediately after the physician’s detached Mary from Jodie, Mary passed away.
Now, 14 years later the Daily Mail reports that the surviving twin is doing well. Jodie’s recovery went better than expected and she started breathing without a ventilator soon after surgery. Jodie is a healthy teenager and has a little sister named Rosie.