April 14, 2024

The conjoined twins of Patna

Hi there,

Although the pace of bioethics news slows down during the northern summer, there is always something happening. In this newsletter, you can read about yakuza involvement in organ trading, the decor at Dignitas and a debate over circumcision in San Francisco.

But some human tragedies resist glib answers.
Take conjoined twins Saba and Fahar Shakeel, of Patna, India. They are 15 now
and their father, who supports eight children with his work in a tea stall, has
petitioned the government to allow them to be euthanased.

A few years ago, Mohammed felt differently.
The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi had offered to pay for surgery to separate the girls,
but it seemed certain that at least one would die. It would have required
several operations over nine months. The girls were cheerful and high-spirited
and enjoyed their unusual life. Their father refused.

But now their health is failing. Only Farah
has kidneys and they suffer from headaches, joint pain and increasingly slurred
speech. Their father earns only US$105 a month. He cannot even afford to have
the girls’ ailments diagnosed.

“The girls want to live and enjoy life as
others do but when they are in pain, they cry and ask for help,” Mr Shakeel
told the London
. “All we want is either the government should come and
help us treat them or allow them to die, because they are in a miserable

Is this reason enough for euthanasia? From
the sketchy information in the media, it seems that they enjoy life as
conjoined twins, even though that defies belief for most readers. The main
problem is the failure of their community to provide enough basic medical care.
What do you think?

Michael Cook