German Press Review: The Gods in White Failed in Singapore | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 09.07.2003
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German Press Review: The Gods in White Failed in Singapore

German editorials on Wednesday focused on the ethics involved in the failed operation to separate Iranian Siamese twins joined at the head. They also commented on the resignation of Michel Friedman.


Iranian conjoined twins, Ladan, left, and Laleh Bijani had their hopes set on leading separate lives.

After a controversial operation in Singapore resulted in the death of two 29-year-old Iranian women who were born joined at the head, newspapers in Germany criticized the attempt to separate them, saying it violated medical ethics.

Munich’s Süddeutsche Zeitung argued that the doctors’ concern for their patients was at most secondary. The main motive was less altruistic; these doctors wanted to write medical history, the paper wrote. The result of the "medical show" was the twins’ death. The risk for the doctors was low: if the operation had succeeded, the surgical team would have secured its place in the medical history books, it stated. Now even though they failed, they are still being called heroes who tried their best to save the women’s lives. The fact that they were the ones to endanger their lives in the first place will easily be forgotten, the paper concluded.

The Dresdener Neueste Nachrichten echoed that view. "The grave-side speeches will be followed by medical reports that will seek to justify the two deaths under chief surgeon Dr. Keith Goh" wrote the paper. "But the gods in white failed much earlier on. The twins’ desire to lead separate lives is understandable," the Dresden daily said, "but Goh and his team should not have indulged their wish." "The main actors in this tragedy were vain physicians unable to asses what was really feasible, and the Iranian women were under the impression that modern medicine is all-powerful." Goh should have persuaded them otherwise, the paper maintained.

Many of Germany’s papers also commented on the resignation from public life of Michel Friedman, a prominent German-Jewish leader and talk show host who was found guilty of cocaine possession.

"Michel Friedman has accepted the consequences – far more than just a fine" stated the Stuttgarter Zeitung. He has resigned from all the public offices he was voted into and has publicly apologized. Not many would do the same in similar situations, the paper noted. If his behavior was to designed to set a precedent, then many more in the future should have to apologize to the public and, resign if elected representatives, the paper said.

"Friedman asked for a second chance." Cocaine-sinning football trainer Christoph Daum, songwriter Konstantin Wecker and cooking star Eckart Witzigmann easily got just such a chance argued the Leipziger Volkszeitung. It might even be possible for Friedman the lawyer to continue practicing, but to continue as a talkshow host would be much more difficult, the paper said. It will be almost impossible for Friedman to make a political comeback to the level had reached while holding high-profile positions such as vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany and the European Jewish Congress, noted the paper.

The ongoing diplomatic spat between Germany and Italy over the latest round of stereotypical slurs to come from Italy’s Deputy Tourism Minister Stefano Stefani.

Germany and Italy are at odds again. The Berlin Tagesspiegel wondered if one should start making a list, ticking off those in Rome who are remaining inflexible against those who are trying to repair the damage. Not Silvio Berlusconi personally, but two of his ministers have distanced themselves from the Deputy Tourism Minister Stefani’s dumb attack against German tourists, the paper wrote. The paper went on to say German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder doesn’t trust their promises, otherwise he would state clearly that his plans to vacation in Italy are back on again.

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