Holby’s conjoined twins dilemma

Holby City had an interesting moral dilemma this evening1. Their major storyline of the last couple of months has been conjoined twins, born to an illegal-immigrant North Korean couple claiming asylum on the basis of their persecuted Christianity. Throw in a very Catholic doctor, some very expensive operations, an unfriendly Home Office and a hostile hospital boardroom and you’ve got some interesting plots.

In tonight’s show they discovered a heart problem in one of the twins. She was almost certainly going to die, and was only currently surviving by ‘leeching off’ her twin. But if she dies, both die. So the hospital rushed to arrange the operation to split them, in order to save the single child. The parents refused to permit it, saying it was God’s will that both should die.

Now, I’m happy to dismiss this argument out of hand. It doesn’t matter whether you’re religious, there are multiple ways that makes no sense – God also put the babies into a hospital, surrounded by doctors, for example. But Very Catholic Doctor was conflicted for a different reason: he reacted to a comment about ‘cutting away one child as if it were a growth’, and wasn’t happy with an operation that would, essentially, actively kill one baby.

I personally still don’t find this too tricky. Non-action results in no babies surviving, while action results in one baby surviving. I don’t consider it immoral to ‘kill’ a baby that’s going to die anyway, if it means saving the life of another (providing you do everything you can to minimise suffering). I am also happy to go against the parents’ wishes, as children aren’t the property of their parents.

But I am not a parent, and others with me found it difficult. What do you think?

  1. I have forgiven its moment of madness []