Friday, May 13, 2011

Gin a body meet a body Comin thro the rye

What makes a person?

Yesterday I was talking with a couple of my colleagues about the cojoined twins in China. They cannot be separated, because they share one and a half hearts, and have only one set of all other organs. They're in critical condition.

And I was thinking, "Separating them? They're not two people. It's one person with two heads."

But one of my colleagues said, "No, it's two people. There are two heads and two brains."

They're twins. Twins that just didn't separate correctly.

And this is horrible, truly horrible, but part of me thinks, well, why wouldn't you just cut off one of the heads, so that the one could have a chance at a normal life? I didn't say this out loud at the office, because of course I don't want them to know what a terrible person I am. (The Internet, however, is a whole nother story.)

Of course, the argument against this is that you'd be killing a person. But it's a person who would be a disembodied head if you separated them. Which makes...a head.

But even if you were allowed to do that - and I don't know that you are, because would it be murder? - you'd have to make a Sophie's choice kind of decision. Which would be brutal.

Which makes this another one of those situations that makes me wonder if there is something very wrong with me.

I know there are stories of cojoined twins having happy lives, playing sports, dating, marrying, having children. I just cannot imagine. Life is hard with the regular amount of everything.

The couple had no idea until three days before the birth that their baby had two heads. Or rather, that they had twins with one body. So it wasn't like they knew ahead of time and made a choice. They didn't know the sex, because according to the article, in China you're not allowed to know, so that you don't have a sex-selective abortion.

This is not something I could handle. But this is also something I know I would never have to. I get to look at this from a very safe distance. I'm quite sure the parents aren't thinking, "Why don't we just cut off a head?"

Why do I think these kinds of things? Particularly when the normal human response is, "Oh, how terrible! I hope they survive!"

And really, what makes a person?


  1. And do they get one birth certificate or two? And would the birthers believe it if they saw it?

  2. They say that the girls have very serious health problems and things don't look great for their survival. Makes you wonder if trying to save one might be worth it. Though now that I'm a mother, I can't imagine having to make that decision.

  3. What makes a person is a good question. I'd answer a mind. I think of the elderly, when their bodies are frail but the mind is still there with all it's wisdom and it's a beautiful thing. I also think of my Granny who had Alzheimers and it was the opposite situation. I hope these twins survive, how difficult it must be for their parents.

    I didn't like Sophie's Choice, even though Meryl's performance was flawless and memorable.

  4. It really is an interesting question. And I would wonder about saving one (if possible). But, liike you said, it would be a horrible Sophie's Choice kind of thing. Ugh.

    And, BTW, wasn't there a post here yesterday about getting to read? Did you take it down? Am I losing my mind?

  5. Lisa - When I read this the other day I looked at it from many different angles and that same thing occurred to me. Then I severly castigated myself for even thinking it - you're not alone. If you look at the two little faces, each with a blossoming personalities - OMG - the horror of the whole thing. It's heartbreaking. You're not terrible for thinking it - it is an out of the ordinary situation with few to no options. Those poor parents....

    Locochran - birthers need long form proof, lol.

  6. lacochran - I think they'd get two...but they couldn't run for president here anyway.

    Tempest - I know, now that I'm a mother, I know I couldn't face it.

    HK - I'd say a mind as well, but like your example, or when someone is brain dead, they're still a person, you know?

    It was a very painful movie. I liked it, but it was painful.

    cla517 - Yes, horrible choice. I wouldn't be able to do it.

    And YES there was a post! Blogger took it away! I cannot comment back because it is gone!

    Kate - That makes me feel better. I feel so callous and terrible when I think those things. And yes, the horror of the whole thing.

  7. It kinda looks like their only option is to stay together as one person with two heads, since they share some organs, but have two of others. It is really, really freaky. Like two spines and two stomachs. But only one set of limbs. Can you imagine? Having your own thoughts, but someone else is using your body too. How does that even work? Like if one brain sends the "raise right hand" signal, and the other sends "don't raise right hand", what happens?

    Apparently, I'm not a normal human, because I think the best outcome would be that they don't make it. I know that's hard on the parents, but life with two heads? I feel like a hypocrite for saying "It's not natural!" when I had a baby that probably wouldn't have made it were it not for modern medicine, but really, there's a big difference between 'stick her in an incubator and feed her with a syringe' and 'person walking around with two heads.'

  8. I don't think these twins will make it, but if they do, there is documented success with Brittany and Abby Hensel (a couple TLC shows from years ago) who are the same kind of twins. Latest vid of them here (they are 19 now!):

    But as a parent, I agree, it would be hard, heartbreaking, and the whole gamut of emotions.

    - Mon

  9. I also thought maybe it would be better if they didn't survive. As horrible as it sounds, having conjoined twins that absolutely cannot be separated is just so much.. So much time, so much worry, so much therapy, so much ridicule in school, so much stress. Having conjoined twins is one of my worst nightmares. I don't think I'm strong enough to face that and i know I'm not strong enough to watch my children go through their lives like that. As for separating one, I would use x-rays as the baseline and whichever child has the most viability, that is the one you would have to choose.. But I would also donate any organs I could because then somehow, the other child still lives on.

    Also? It made me incredibly sad that they refer to the girls as left sister and right sister.

  10. That is absolutely terrifying. I can't even imagine having to make a decision like that.

    Also, the song (poem?) you used in your blog title is totally stuck in my head now. I have no clue where I learned it, but its stuck.

  11. I understand what you are saying. I thought the same.

  12. This type of thing is so sad to me. I can't imagine not knowing about this until it happened. I want to know about what is going on inside me every step of the way.


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