One or two: An examination of the recent case of the conjoined twins from malta

Y. Michael Barilan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The article questions the assumption that conjoined twins are necessarily two people or persons by employing arguments based on different points of view: non-personal vitalism, the person as a sentient being, the person as an agent, the person as a locus of narrative and valuation, and the person as an embodied mind. Analogies employed from the cases of amputation, multiple personality disorder, abortion, split-brain patients and cloning. The article further questions the assumption that a conjoined twin's natural interest and wish is separation. I first contend that separation is such a radical procedure as to render the post-separation person different from the pre-separation one. Therefore, it is not possible to benefit the pre-separation twin by the act of separation. The article concludes with a critical evaluation of the tendency in bioethics to regard ethical challenges as rivalry between individuals competing for scarce resources.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-44
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Medicine and Philosophy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2003


  • Abortion
  • Cloning
  • Conjoined twins
  • Human body
  • Human person
  • Multiple personality disorder
  • Split brain


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