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British Court Rules That One Conjoined Twin Can Be Killed to Save Other

Aired September 22, 2000 - 1:13 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: My voice is reaching all the way to London now, where Christiane Amanpour is still waiting to report the story of the British court that ruled not too long ago, and overruled the wishes of parents of conjoined twins.

Christiane, what's the story now?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is how it stands in an exceptional ruling; the first of its kind in English law.

The judges have determined that there can be a legal case for life to be taken in order to save another life, and that is what they've done here today. The conjoined twins that we've been talking about in watching this case proceed for the last several weeks are joined at their lower abdomen, the younger -- weaker one, rather -- Mary has been living off the stronger one, Jodie.

Jodie is the only one who is able to pump blood around the joined body. The judge said that Mary was designated for death. That she is only alive because she is, quote, "sucking the blood from her sister Jodie." And therefore, he ruled today that it was in the best interest of the children, even though it would lead to the death of one of them, to allow surgery to proceed and to allow the intervention to take place so that Jodie could, at least, live what they hope will be a fairly normal life, despite the fact that she may have disabilities.

Now, without the operation, doctors had determined that it would be a matter of months before both twins died.

So this decision has been taken today. It overrules what the parents wanted. They are devout Roman Catholics; they wanted, as they said, God's will to be taken, they wanted nature to be allowed to take its course.

They have avenues of appeal: They can go to House of Lords here in England and then they can pursue it to the European Court of Human Rights. The lawyers we spoke to for both the parents and the weaker twin -- they say that they're going to have to explain what happened today to the parents and then everybody is going to have to make a decision on how to proceed further. But, certainly, an exceptionally dramatic case. The courtroom was really on tender hoofs today, waiting for the judge's decision. It was an exceptionally sensitive and thoughtful decision; but one that was incredibly dramatic, because they decided that it was legally possible to take a life in order to save another one, and they used the principle of self-defense in that.

They said that it was OK for doctors to come and rescue Jodie because her other, weaker, twin sister was, essentially, attacking her to the point that she would die -- Lou.

WATERS: Christiane Amanpour in London.

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