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The Case Of Conjoined Twins An Ethical Dilemma

3253 words - 13 pages

Jodie and Mary are twins joined at their lower abdomens. Jodie is an alert baby, with functioning heart and lungs. Mary has no effective heart or lung function and lives purely because of her attachment to Jodie. According to commonly accepted medical evidence, Jodie’s life would be virtually as long as, and would have the quality of, that of any ordinary child if separated from Mary. It is clear that if the twins were separated then Mary would die. Equally, it is clear that if the twins were not separated then eventually Jodie’s heart and lungs will fail and both twins will die. The parents are resolutely opposed to any surgery for the twins as they feel it would be morally wrong to intentionally cause the death of one of their twins.The doctors have two choices. They can apply to the courts to undergo the operation against the parents’ wishes, or they can respect the parents’ wishes and not operate.A scenario like this raises a number of issues, whether it be the individuals involved, the laws or the challenges involved in making the ‘right’ decision. In addition many ethical questions usually arise in trying to understand or explain the situation. For example, will the outcome of the surgery be successful? Is sacrificing one twin to save the other justified?In this rare case of conjoined twins, the decision on separation presents a conflict of interest between the parents’ values and the medical professionals’ expertise or duty. The outcome also presents a ray of possibilities. Firstly if surgery is carried out, there are a number of potential results e.g. a successful separation, the death of the weaker twin, the separation resulting in the death of both twins or a risk of long-term complications during and after surgery. However if the surgery is not carried out, this could result in both twins dying due to the heart mass or lungs not being able to support two growing babies or Jodie having a slimmer chance of a longer life.Furthermore, since this case is dealing with babies, the complexity of making a decision extends. Thus, in order to weigh out the best possible solution, both sides of the conflict need to be taken into consideration.Both Jodie and Mary’s parents, as well as the doctors are both dealing with the case on the basis of ‘best interest’ in regards to the twins. However their opinion as to what the ‘best interests’ for the twins are, is very much different.As health professionals, the doctors’ responsibility is always the care of the patient and in making the best possible decision in the interest of the patient. If we accept that as patients we tend to embrace the ‘doctor knows best’ theory, we can see why they may present a stronger argument. In this case the doctors being those in support of the separation can be seen as overriding the autonomous wishes of the parents, with the goal of benefiting one of the twins or acting in their ‘best...

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