Baby Girl Has ‘Parasitic’ Head Removed

This story creeps me out, kinda, but I find it hard to ignore nevertheless. From MSN, via Boing Boing: Baby stable after second head removed.

It’s not clear to me from the article, but the impression they give is that the second head was more or less aware:

The head that was removed from Manar had been capable of smiling and blinking but not independent life, doctors said.

I wonder what would have happened to the parasitic twin if she wasn’t removed. She didn’t have lungs, and wouldn’t have been able to speak, or go through a lot of other normal child development. Maybe she, and her host, wouldn’t have even survived. But I wonder about the medical ethics of deciding to, in essence, murder the partial individual in question. If the second head had been allowed to live long enough, and if she could have achieved the means of communicating with the outside world, what would she have said about the question of whether or not she should be killed to give her host twin a chance of a better life?

Is the “capable of independent life” thing a pointer to the relevant area of medical ethics, with the thinking on the part of the doctors being that, like an unborn fetus, a parasitic head that could not survive on its own definitionally doesn’t fall under the protections of their professional oaths?

I’m not trying to start an argument here. I’m just legitimately curious about the issue, having never heard of such a case before.

In my initial version of this posting, I was referring to the second head with the pronoun “it.” Only after thinking for a bit did I decide that I should dignify the individual in question with “she,” and had to go back to edit myself. I note that the author of the Reuters story linked to above was careful to avoid that conundrum by always referring to “the second head,” “the second twin,” and “the conjoined organ,” never using a pronoun. That seems significant to me, somehow.

It’s probably the case that the conjoined twins would not have been able to live beyond a certain age. Certainly the surviving one has a much better shot at what most people would consider a normal life with the parasitic twin removed. It may well be that killing the parasitic twin was the right thing to do.

But the article sure seems to go out of its way to describe the event as if that wasn’t what actually happened. And that feels to me like it might be fundamentally dishonest.

I don’t really know. But I invite others’ opinions on the subject.

10 Responses to “Baby Girl Has ‘Parasitic’ Head Removed”

  1. ekb87 Says:

    I recall reading a similar story about a Japanese man who had a similar condition, though not as severe as the story you mention. In his case, it was more a case of having a second face protruding from the rear-and-to-the-side of his head. Due to negative attitudes regarding deformity in Japanese society, he essentially lived an isolate life as an outcast in a rural .jp village. Until, city doctors in recent years offered to help him, and remove the second head/face.

    Anyway, the thing I recall was that his second face also moved – “eyes” blinked, mouth moved, etc. However, when you watched the footage it showed that the second face simply mirrored his actual face. ie. The second mouth moved a little, when he spoke with his real mouth, etc…

    So when *this* story refers to the second face being “capable of smiling and blinking but not independent life”, it may be that the second head was merely mimicking the primary one, presumably by the nervous system sending the same ‘physical-movement’ signals from the child’s single brain.

    *If* this is the case, I don’t think this operation raises any ethical issues.

    On the other hand, if there was a second brain in there….

  2. Larry Says:

    After looking at the photograph in the article, there seems to be enough room in the second head for at least something of a brain. That, combined with my personal unease at using the pronoun ‘she’ in regard to the head, makes me believe that there *are* some tricky ethical issues here. Avoiding the use of the pronoun is probably a subconscious effort to de-personify the second head and thus dodge those issues (for me, in anycase). Bad subconscious, bad!

  3. Sven Says:

    When I was in college I worked at a bank. Two of my regular customers, Yvonne and Yvette, were siamese twins joined at the top of the head:

    They were two of the nicest customers I had (of course they had a “joint” account), and I was sad to have learned that they died in 1993. But they proved their doctors wrong: doctors who said they’d never walk and would probably be mentally retarded. They walked very well, and were even attending college when I knew them. They probably would have lived much longer, if not for their smoking habit.

    So who knows what would have become of THIS second head, had she been left to live. Life is pretty amazing sometimes.

  4. Red Says:

    Have you read the account of The Two-Headed Boy of Bengal? It’s on Boing Boing. I think in that case the extra head was proven to have it’s own brain. This case seems more similar to that one than to any other. Reasearching this stuff has become an odd little hobby of mine after my Creative Writing tutor set us the task of doing research on a topic of our choice…

  5. brinka0 Says:

    I just watched film footage of this case on Oprah, and the Parasitic head, had its own brain, and was a twin, the doctors said yes they considered this a seperate baby, but no it could not survive on its own with sharing the heart, lungs etc from the host baby. I saw this baby sucking on the pacifier, cry on its own, and its facial expressions seperate/independant from the host child.
    I find this very sad, and i’m glad to hear that the doctors sought out religious approval to do such a surgery,,…….it just proved to me, i was not alone in thinking of this case as two babies not one…..
    how terribly sad…..

  6. bitpir8 Says:


    This entity was on Oprah. I saw the story. The feeling that this being gives off is disturbing and unnatural. I’m not aware of the chemicals or what was taken to produce this “people”, but the practice should be looked into. Something was unnatural about the process or insemination.

    Something unpure and I get a feeling of life and human life existence being altered in a way it does not seem meant to. Cloning and genetically created animals(parts), plants to taste better with less of their natural vitamin, mineral and antioxidant properties to “taste” better. If you don’t know, dig in deep about KFC and the Taco Bell incident. Hush hush anything the money scrubbing US gov FDA thinks about good nutrition. When you aren’t sick, who pays them for the drugs?

    To be honest, all of these things really scare me. Because we are told something is OK (drugs over life for one) and accepted, the disobedience of true nature and purity seeps through and spreads against us in their favor.

    Had this been a natural insemination without chemical substance, radiation, or infused hormones, then as a being itself(or selves), live and let live. I tell ya…

    Buy an orange at the grocery store, then one at a real fruit stand. The one at the grocery store is likely altered in it’s code, and you’ll get it seedless and then it will have what seems to be another baby orange inside of it beginning to grow.. unatural, and making it appear bigger from a casual consumer. The taste will also not be as rich and strong as the orange from the fruit stand.

    Things are beginning to look a little.. off.. and “if no one notices, they’ll(we’ll) all accept it.”

  7. brinka0 Says:


    It was a twin !, and the separation was not complete as “they” were growing.
    This happens…………..

  8. cutietoes Says:

    It is endearing to see how the above entries fret and ponder over the medical ethics involved in these cases. As a medical transcriptionist I periodically come across the strange and weird entries in medical documention. It is not always a pleasure to be privvy to some of these stories. That is where I guess my morbid humor kicks in. I imagine the doomed head launching a verbal protest, demanding full rights to an attorney for representation. I picture a face with it’s own separate personality, demanding to be acknowleged, and constantly interjecting contradictions to the larger, main noggin. I could go on, but I am sure your imaginations could certainly see some Saturday Night Live material in this. God, I really have become morbid !!!

  9. Happyquails Says:

    I saw the story today and it pained me to hear that baby crying with her Mum thumping her the entire time as if that is comforting to a post surgical infant! I was distressed to see how the “third soul” as they referred to her had been treated. They didn’t name that baby until burial? They said that the two shared the left side of the brain, with the left side of Manar’s being joined to the right side of the unnamed child. I asume that that entire joined side was tucked relatively intact into Manar’s scull (?). I am very interested in reading more about this but it was deeply troubling and I questioned why nothing more could be done with baby #2 ( actually 3 as there were three in all, 2 being conjoined after the first triplet was born). Too bad that heroic efforts could not have been taken to save that baby too ( increadible thoughts abound).

  10. evalentine Says:

    My understanding from news stories and the surgery as covered on The Learning Channel is that the parasitic twin, the second head, was slowly poisoning Manar’s system. The one liver was not enough to filter toxins for both heads.

    It was a difficult choice for everyone, but it boiled down to taking a chance to save one twin, or losing both.

    The saddest part is that Manar died early in 2006 from a brain infection while being treated in Egypt. She was almost two years old at the time.

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