Thursday, July 31, 2008

A conjoined twin who was separated from her sister in 2001 has died

The International Herald Tribune reports that Ganga Shrestha, age 8, who was separated from her sister, Jamuna, seven years ago, died on Tuesday in Nepal from a severe chest infection. Ganga and Jamuna were 10 months old when doctors operated on them in Singapore to separate their fused brains. Ganga, who doctors have described as the "weaker" of the twins, has not made good progress since the surgery, it is reported, but Jamuna is doing well.

Some readers might be familiar with the feminist disability studies crtitique of the surgical separation of conjoined twins as an example of the "pervasive-will-to-normalize the nonstandard body." Rosemarie Garland-Thomson argues, for example, that conjoined twins contradict or threaten our cultural conceputualization of the individual as discrete, singular and autonomous, and as a consequence, they are almost always surgically separated. Quoting Garland-Thomson:

So intolerable is their insult to dominant ideologies about who patriarchal culture insists we are that the testimonies of adults ... who say they do not want to be separated are routinely ignored in establishing the rationale for medical treatment. In truth, these procedures benefit not the affected individuals, but rather they expunge the kinds of corporeal human variations that contradict the ideologies the dominant order depends upon to anchor truths it insists are unequivocally encoded in bodies.

(Garland-Thomson, "Integrating disability, transforming feminist theory," 2002)

Any thoughts?