Magazine article The Middle East

An Example to Us All: The Iranian Conjoined Twins Ladan and Laleh Bijani Left More Behind Than a Contribution to Medical Science. (the Last Word)

Magazine article The Middle East

An Example to Us All: The Iranian Conjoined Twins Ladan and Laleh Bijani Left More Behind Than a Contribution to Medical Science. (the Last Word)

Article excerpt

While to friends and family who loved them the grief is still painful and sharp, to those of us who didn't know Ladan and Laleh Bijani, the deaths of the Iranian conjoined sisters in July are already slipping into historic memory. Yet the plight of the 29-year-old twins who died while undergoing surgery to separate them, touched the international community in a remarkable way.

Born to a poor family in Firouzabad in southern Iran, the sisters became displaced at the time of the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and were later adopted by the family of a wealthy doctor from Shiraz. Both studied law because Ladan wanted to be a lawyer, although Laleh nurtured ambitions of becoming a journalist. But what each wanted above all else was to be allowed to live life as an individual and separate woman. "We have different ideas about our lives," Laleh told reporters. "In fact we are opposites," Ladan added. "When we first opened our eyes to see the light, we wanted to be separated." This was the convincing argument that eventually won over the surgeons.

From the beginning the operation's chances of success were put, at best, at 50%, although some now argue 10% was a more realistic figure given their age and the fact the sisters shared a common sagital sinus, the main vein that draws blood from the brain. Following extensive study of the situation in 1996, German doctors decided attempting separation would be unsafe.

Madjid Samii, president of the International Neuroscience Institute in Hanover, said that although immensely sympathetic to their plight he had rejected the twins' request to separate them when they were teenagers. "They were about 14 years old and quite adamant about the desire to have the operation", he said. "I said there was no chance of success, that it couldn't be done ... there have been medical advances since then, but the problem then was the same as now, there is only one vein. …

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