Calgary Herald

Let our girls die, pleads family of 15-year-old conjoined twins

- DEAN NELSON

The impoverish­ed family of Indian conjoined twins won worldwide sympathy when they rejected the crown prince of Abu Dhabi’s offer to pay for surgery to separate them. They feared that one or both might die in the operation and could not bear to lose either.

Five years later, they are pleading with the Indian government to allow them to carry out a mercy killing to release the 15-year-old twins from their increasing physical agony.

As their bodies have grown, Saba and Farah Shakeel have suffered severe joint pain, blinding headaches and the humiliatio­n of increasing­ly slurred speech.

They do not know the exact cause of their agonies because they have not been able to afford medical tests or treatment since they rejected the offer of surgery from Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

The interventi­on of Sheik Mohammed allowed the twins to visit some of the world’s leading surgeons to find a way of separating them.

They were examined at Apollo Hospital in New Delhi, where a team under Benjamin Carson, an American conjoined twins specialist, found they shared a vital blood vessel in the brain, and that Farah had two kidneys while Saba had none. The separation would have required five or six operations over nine months, but each stage held a one in five chance that either of the girls might die.

At that time the girls were bright, high-spirited and, although they could move only in an awkward, crablike fashion, were otherwise healthy and happy. They loved watching films of their favourite Bollywood star, Salman Khan, and playing carom, an Indian shuffleboa­rd game.

Their father, Mohammed Shakeel, a Muslim who works on a tea stall in the eastern city of Patna, decided he could not take the risk of losing either daughter, even though doctors warned they might live for only another 10 to 15 years. ButonMonda­yhesaidthe­irliveswer­e already unbearable and that without government help to ease their pain, they should be allowed to end their suffering.

Shakeel, who supports his family of eight on $103 a month, cannot afford further treatment. Doctors have told the family that the dependence of both twins on Farah’s kidneys would cause high blood pressure, rapid weight loss and weakness.

“The girls want to live and enjoy life as others do, but when they are in pain, they cry and ask for help,” said Shakeel. “All we want is either the government should come and help us treat them or allow them to die, because they are in miserable condition.”

The twins’ elder brother, Tamana Ahmad Malik, said they were suffering excruciati­ng pain for 15 hours a day.

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