Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Book Club: Vol. One, Chapter Three

You probably forgot we were doing this, this being an occasional discussion of Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert, a book I was reading. (Shameful truth be told, the past tense doesn't apply. I'm still 15 pages from the finish line. This is because my job entails reading more than humanly possible. It's fun, during those brief periods when your eyes stop bleeding and your head stops throbbing.)

I saw this article over the weekend. It concerns the successful separation of 10-month-old conjoined twins. Here's one of the doctors:
"Our expectation is that they will recover from this completely and will go on to lead very, very normal lives," Dr. Stein said.
And here's the reaction of the girls' mother:
When Ms. Fierros was asked at the briefing what she wished (for) her children, she wiped away tears and answered in Spanish, "to see our daughters run, go to a normal school, to prepare themselves for life, to enjoy everything that life has to offer."
A touching sentiment, no doubt. But according to Gilbert, those are wishes that might be held more deeply by the mother than the children. This is from a provocative section on conjoined twins in Stumbling on Happiness:
As a prominent medical historian wrote: "Many singletons, especially surgeons, find it inconceivable that life is worth living as a conjoined twin, inconceivable that one would not be willing to risk all -- mobility, reproductive ability, the life of one or both twins -- to try for separation." In other words, not only does everyone know that conjoined twins will be dramatically less happy than normal people, but everyone also knows that conjoined lives are so utterly worthless that dangerous separation surgeries are an ethical imperative. And yet, standing against the backdrop of our certainty about these matters are the twins themselves. When we ask Lori and Reba how they feel about their situation, they tell us that they wouldn't have it any other way. In an exhaustive search of the medical literature, the same medical historian found the "desire to remain together to be so widespread among communicating conjoined twins as to be practically universal."
There's further exploration of these findings in the book. Like I said, provocative.



Blogger Nathan said...

Also an interesting read, Chang and Eng. The historical fiction novel based on the cojoined twins that gave birth to the phrase "Siamese twins." Cojoined throughout life as fishermen in Siam up to becoming farmers in North Carolina and fathering 21 children between them, it's a captivating story.

Click here if you're interested.

7:19 PM  

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