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Surgery on Conjoined Twins Completed

In medical terms this morning, this much-watched separation of infant girls is being called successful, with the outcome that doctors predicted: the twin who lacked functioning vital organs died in the operating room, but her sister has survived. CBS correspondent Richard Roth reports from London.

"We can confirm that the operation to separate Jodie and Mary was performed yesterday and this complex procedure finished at around five o'clock this morning," says the hospital spokeswoman. "Jodie is currently in a critical but stable condition. Unfortunately despite all the efforts of the medical team, Mary sadly died. As with all major surgery, the first few days following a major operation are the most critical and our thoughts remain with Jodie and her parents."

The twenty-hour operation by a team of twenty doctors and nurses at a hospital in Manchester in northern England was a life and death procedure that followed weeks of moral and legal arguments over medical ethics and parental rights.

Court papers called the baby girls Mary and Jodie. They were joined at the hips, and only Jodie had a working heart and lungs--providing life support for her sister, but at a perilous cost to her own health and strength. Mary could not survive the separation, but without the surgery, doctors had said both would surely die.

Experts said that was bound to make the surgery a trial for all those involved.

"There will probably be emotional problems on behalf of the staff and clearly when one child is going to die during the operation it involves an enormous amount of emotional upset, and that has to be catered for in preparation of the operation," says professor Albert Spitz.

The parents, devout Roman Catholics from the small Mediterranean Island of Gozo, had opposed the surgery--arguing that faith taught them nature should have been allowed to takes its course. Though a court ruling sanctioned the operation, its outcome was never certain.

"Whatever investigations have been carried out prior to the (operations?) the surgeons have to be aware that they may come across something which they did not anticipate before hand," says Spitz. "This will have to be dealt with at the time. It may change the scheduled plan completely."

The complete prognosis for the surviving twin is still uncertain. The surgery that ended early today is just the beginning of a series of operations Jodie will need to reconstruct her lower body, to give her as much normal function as possible.

It is still very early for any sure measures of her medical condition. Since the twins were fused at the spine, there was concern Jodie might suffer partial paralysis. At the least, doctors had said they anticipated the little girl would face additional surgery over the next five years--but the case is not unique and the outlook does have promise: there was a similar separation of conjoined twins in America a little over a year ago, with less publicity--and the surviving twin i now a thriving toddler.

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