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Tatiana and Krista Hogan-Simms

The Many Tragedies of Conjoined Twins

By Dr. W. Gifford Jones

Monday, May 21, 2007

Six months ago Tatiana and Krista Hogan-Simms entered this world in British Columbia as conjoined twins. Now they and their parents have become international celebrities appearing on major television shows. In the press the conjoined twins are described as "little angels". But every time I see their pictures I wonder why anyone would allow this cruelty to happen. Do any readers agree with me?

The tragedy of conjoined twins occurs in the early stages of pregnancy when the fertilized egg fails to divide completely. Few such tragic newborns live long enough to be considered for surgery.

Reports claim that Felicia Hogan-Simms was advised by doctors that her pregnancy could be terminated, but she refused this option. I assume that she considers life of any kind sacred, and abortion never an option, even in this horrendous situation.

Now the twins, joined by the head, are being examined by a team of surgeons to see if separation is possible. I'd predict that by the time this column is published studies will show corrective surgery is not feasible. So what a tragic life awaits the twins. For as long as they live they will be unable to care for themselves or lead a normal active life.

I think this situation is difficult to understand for many reasons. It's hard to comprehend a parent who would want such a tragic pregnancy to continue. Nature in this case has created a terrible catastrophe. So why compound the mistake by subjecting these twins to this terrible fate?

Ms Hogan-Simms is quoted as saying, "At least they will never be alone". How devastatingly correct she is! It may be their greatest misfortune, never having the option of being separated. No chance of ever enjoying one pleasant moment to do their own thing. They are imprisoned together for life on their backs.

Ms Hogan-Simms also believes that "the girls were born for a purpose to teach people about tolerance; that it's okay to be different". But the point is, how much different? And unless there's a cataclysmic change in human nature she has destined her girls to be stared at as a freak of nature as long as they live.

A cruel aberration will never allow Tatiana and Krista to enjoy the world as the rest of us know it. They will never walk, joined at the head in such an abnormal position. They will never enjoy their first bike ride, drive a car or be able to pursue a career.

Physically they are destined for ill health, lying on their backs forever. They will become obese and develop the myriad of diseases that accompany this problem. Their lives will be a living hell.

This should be a wakeup call for society to prevent unimaginable future cruelty of this kind. We are a compassionate nation and we routinely remove children from parents who abuse them. So I would ask this question. Is there anyone among us who would want to be born this way or willing to trade places with these conjoined twins? I doubt it.

Ms Hogan-Simms should not have been allowed to make the ultimate decision. I have in the past always cast a jaundiced eye on committee decisions. But I like to believe that in this instance an ethics committee would have seen the logic of terminating this pregnancy.

Ms. Hogan-Simms may be a caring mother, but in my opinion not a rational one. After all, Ms Hogan-Simms has stated publicly she believes in a magical life and says, "I do believe in fairies. I always have. They're magical and mischievous creatures like a mystery to life".

Unfortunately, these unfortunate conjoined twins will need more than magical fairies to help them face the misery that awaits them in years ahead.

Peter Singer, Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, believes that children with major deformities of this kind should have life terminated within 28 days of their birth. But in my opinion it would have been a greater kindness to terminate this pregnancy in the early weeks of gestation.

What do readers think? I'll report your opinion and can be reached at [email protected]

Medical Archives after 2008
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W. Gifford-Jones M.D is the pen name of Dr. Ken Walker graduate of Harvard. Dr. Walker's website is: Docgiff.com

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Pre-2008 articles by Gifford Jones