Conjoined Twins

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Conjoined twins happen once in every 200,000 live births (Maryland). Conjoined twins are identical twins whose bodies are joined in utero. Most are stillborn and others are born with severe abnormalities that make living a normal life almost impossible. The survival rate of conjoined twins is between 5 percent and 25 percent (Maryland). The most common form of conjoined twins is thoracopagus twins. These types of twins share the same heart. Some of the other types of conjoined twins include omphalopagus in which the twins are conjoined at the lower chest but no heart is involved. Parasitic twins are when twins are asymmetrically conjoined. One twin is dependent on the larger twin for survival. Another type of twin is the craniopagus twins in which the skulls are fused together. Surgical separation of conjoined twins is a risky procedure and requires extreme precision. Success rates have been improving but it is still rare.

Surgical separation is often the only way that the conjoined twins can survive. The success rates of separation make it difficult though to make this decision. Separation often results in one or both twins deaths. This leads to the ethical dilemma on whether to separate conjoined twins. Recent research has found that the quality of life for conjoined twins is often higher than is commonly supposed. There have been many different controversial cases regarding the separation of conjoined twins.

A noted case is the “Jodie” and “Mary” judicial decision. Jodie and Mary were a set of combined twins that were brought to the court of appeals in England. Mary was dependent on Jodie for survival because many of her vital organs were within Jodie’s skeletal structure. The twins’ parents were devout Catholics and were against the separation of the twins, despite the doctors wishes. The physicians decided to bring the matter the courts. The judicial decision was to separate the two and this ultimately led to Mary’s death. Jodie survived and is still...
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