Friday 27 November 2009

The Incredible Value of Human Life

In Australia one of the biggest news stories of the last week has been the remarkable story of conjoined twins Trishna and Krishna who were successfully separated by a team of surgeons at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne on the 18th November.

Two years ago the 'Children First Foundation' brought these two little girls from Bangladesh to Australia for surgery.

An aid worker first saw Trishna and Krishna in an orphanage in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, when they were a month old. The aid worker contacted the Children First Foundation, which brought the girls to Australia for the operation. Their mother handed over her girls because she and her husband were unable to care for their special needs. The Children First Foundation also recognised that this was their only real chance of a longer life due to the nature of how they were joined at the skull.

Trishna and Krishna were joined at the top of their heads and shared brain tissue and blood vessels. They were gravely ill when they arrived, and underwent several preparatory operations over a period of almost 2 years before being separated. The doctors doing the surgery had warned that there was a 50 percent chance that one or both of the girls could suffer brain damage as a result. They were separated last week after a 32 hour operation by a team of 15 surgeons and over 70 medical staff working in shifts to complete the procedure. They left intensive care on Monday, are in stable condition, and the operation appears to have been a complete success.

The High Value of Human Life

People have applauded the remarkable doctors and people everywhere have been filled with great joy because the two little girls are now separated. Many have also praised (quite rightly) the woman who was responsible for bringing them to Australia (Moira Kelly). However, my wife Carmen put her finger on what is even more remarkable about this story. She commented over dinner through the week:
"You know what is so wonderful about this story? Moira Kelly and the doctors have shown how they put such a high value on human life."
In the second of his New College Lectures this year, Professor John Wyatt reminded his audience that the value of human life should never be linked to any judgements about the 'quality' of life, for such a judgement is hard to make. He shared the story of a little boy named Christopher who was part of his church and was born with Edwards syndrome. This is a tragic and rare chromosomal disorder that causes multiple malformations, severe mental impairment and a uniformly fatal outcome. He shared how this little boy had had a huge impact on his family and in fact the entire church, and how much his life had touched many and had been significant. In making sense of how this could occur in a world that seeks only perfection in people, he commented:
"....behind it all is the Christian conviction that even the weakest and most malformed human being has a life of unique value. Christopher in his way was a God-like being, a flawed masterpiece. His life was an example of Christian theology in practice, and it was a privilege for me to know him.

Here is a strange paradox. Sometimes we see the image of God most clearly, not in the perfect specimens of humanity, not in the Olympic athlete or the Nobel prizewinner. We see Christ in the broken, the malformed, the imperfect. It is an example of the Easter mystery. God is revealed, not in glorious majesty but in a broken body on a cross."
Though Trishna and Krishna were living their lives in bodies deformed and facing suffering and death, their lives were seen as having a high value by Moira Kelly, the 'Children First Foundation', supporters of the foundation and the large team of medical practitioners. As a result, they were prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to save them.

In a world so keen to use genetic screening to abort all but the most perfect foetus (see my previous post on 'Prenatal Genetic Testing), the story of these little girls is special. Psalm 139 helps us to understand that though these little girls may have been malformed in their mother's womb, they were known by God and precious to him:
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

Psalm 139:13-16
Praise God that these little lives were also precious to Moira Kelly and the medical team that has separated them.

Related posts

a) A mother praises God for her conjoined towns - In a similar case of conjoined twins, a mother raised eye brows in January this year when she greeted the news that she was to have dicephalous twins, the rarest known type of Siamese twins, with the comment:

"Some people might look at me and say, 'You're going to give birth to a freak' - but I don't care because I feel blessed......To me, my twins are a gift from God and we're determined to give them their chance of life."

Read the post HERE.

b) The latest on Trishna & Krishna - The girls are still doing well (HERE & HERE)

c) MP3s of Prof John Wyatt's lectures on 'Bioethics and Future Hope' (HERE)

d) All previous posts on medical ethics (HERE)

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