The operation could threaten
the twins' lives

Dr Keith Goh, who will lead the surgical team, told a news conference on Monday that the two women, Laleh and Ladan Bijani, had opted for the operation despite the risk that one or both could die or be left physically challenged.

“We are happy and excited about the surgery,” said Ladan in a statement issued by the hospital.

Medical sources said doctors had decided to attempt the unprecedented surgery despite the risks, because after 28 years the two sisters wanted to live apart.

Twins fused at the head occur only once in every two million live births.

In April 2001 Goh led a team of doctors in Sigapore to separate the fused skulls and intertwined brains of 11-month-old Nepali girls, Jamuna and Ganga Shrestha, in a four-day operation.

The Bijani sisters went to Singapore last November for medical and psychological tests on their suitability for the rare operation.

Goh said the operation was feasible, because the women had anatomically separate brains.

German doctors refused to operate in 1996 on the basis that splitting them could be fatal. The sisters continued their search for surgeons willing to separate them.

The twins,who are both law graduates, are keen to pursue careers in law and journalism.

Raffles Hospital, where the operation is scheduled, said an independent committee had looked at the ethical, professional and philosophical issues surrounding the planned surgery.

The sisters have said differences between them about seven years ago spurred their decision to have the operation. They also occasionally suffer from sever headaches.

After surgery each will be left with a conspicuous cavity at the side of her head.

Singapore experts in neurosurgery, plastic surgery, radiology and anaesthesia will be joined by specialists from the United States, France, Japan and Switzerland.

The operation will cost $289,000 and is expected to continue at least three days.

The doctors are waiving their professional fees, but a fund has been established to raise money for other expenses.