Conjoined Twins and Catholic Moral Analysis: Extraordinary Means and Casuistical Consistency

Document Type


Publication Date

June 2002


This article draws upon the Roman Catholic distinction between “ordinary” and “extraordinary” means of medical treatment to analyze the case of “Jodie” and “Mary,” the Maltese conjoined twins whose surgical separation was ordered by the English courts over the objection of their Roman Catholic parents and Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the Roman Catholic Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster. It attempts to shed light on the use of that distinction by surrogate decision makers with respect to incompetent patients. In addition, it critically analyzes various components of the distinction by comparing the reasoning used by Catholic moralists in this case with the reasoning used in other cases that raise similar issues, including women facing crisis pregnancies who prefer abortion to adoption and the Indiana “Baby Doe” case.


Published in Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal. Copyright 2002 by The Johns Hopkins University Press.