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.