over at RealChoice
about Manar Maged, an Egyptian baby who had "second head" removed. I pondered:
Was this a growth, or a second person living a parasitic existance? Should the ethics of killing the parasitic twin even enter into the equation?
Well, little Manar, her mother, and her team of doctors were on Oprah
today. And the doctors confirmed what I suspected: This was not a "2-headed baby". Manar had a twin who for some reason had never developed enough of a body to survive on her own. The twin had no heart. She was even given a name: Islaam.
Manar and Islaam had two different brains but shared a common blood vessel that fed off of Manar's vital organs. Because Islaam was so dependent on Manar's body for survival, Manar suffered severe heart failure six times in the first few months of her life. Keeping Manar alive was a daily struggle.
"Islaam didn't have a heart to survive on," Dr. El Alfi explains. "She was surviving on the heart and lungs of Manar. She was getting nutrition from Manar. She was exchanging gases through Manar's lungs. And she was having blood supplied from Manar's heart."
So, despite the way the mainstream news covered this story, it wasn't a case of one baby having an unsightly and dangerous growth removed. It was a rare case in which both conjoined twins will die unless they are separated in surgery that will kill one of them.
What Oprah's web site fails to report are the words that moved me to tears of gratitude: One of the twins' doctors spoke of how little Islaam was a human being, afforded dignity to the end, given anesthesia just like her sister. The entire medical team spoke of the two children. Two human beings. Twins. Just one of them with birth defects that made survival impossible.
To her discredit, though, Oprah kept referring to Islaam as "the second head" and "the parasitic head." Earth to Oprah: she only lived nine months in the womb and ten months outside it, but she was still a child, not a "head." The surgical team sought a religious consultation before proceeding because they were fully aware of the moral implications of surgery that would end Islaam's life.