Life or Death, who decides?
The City Debate, 6th December 2000
It was entirely coincidental that the day after the City Debate, the case of Jodie and Mary the Siamese twins, was the focus of much media attention; because ITV broadcast an interview with the parents, who were identified in public for the first time. It was very interesting to discover in that interview, that the parents had changed their views about the judgement which brought about the operation to separate Mary and Jodie, and, in the course of the operation, the death of Mary.
The speakers in the debate in St Peterís the night before clearly demonstrated how difficult it must have been for those involved in the decision-making to come to a definitive decision. Professor Langman, recently retired as Professor of Medicine at Birmingham, laid before us the doctorsí dilemma - the duty to save life, the complications, as well as the amazing advances, brought about by constantly developing technology; Sister Frances Dominica, who has spent eighteen years struggling alongside children with life-threatening illnesses and their parents, as they seek to make right decisions within the family context, gave us a deeply moving and personal testimony to the need to listen to the parents; and Judge David Brunning laid out the principles in law which had informed the Law Lordsí decision - all growing our of a fundamental ethical principle that life is sacred.
Andrew David, from Radio Nottingham, brilliantly moderated the discussion and debate, which carried on well beyond the normal hour, and took a straw poll at the end. Very few believed the judges had made a wrong judgement, but we were equally split between those who thought they were right, and those who were still unable to make up their mind. It was a challenging evening, which addressed issues of far wider significance in society than just this particularly difficult case. The debate will and must continue.