A recent revelation has caused an enormous controversy within the medical community and society at large. Six-year-old Ashley was afflicted with a severe brain impairment called static encephalopathy. As a result, she has little mobility and requires constant care from her parents at home. Doctors at Seattle Children’s Hospital, at the request of Ashley’s parents, removed Ashley’s uterus, appendix and still-forming breasts. They also treated her with high doses of estrogen to stunt her growth. The rationale of the parents is that the surgery will help her avoid possible future health problems. Because Ashley was expected to have a large bust size, the removal of her breast buds was to help alleviate a possible future sexual assault. Her small physical size, caused by the estrogen treatment, would assist her parents during home care.
The hospital’s ethics committee approved the procedure in 2004. At first the surgery was not made public. However, Ashley’s doctors, Daniel Gunther and Douglas Diekema, wrote a paper for the October issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. They said their “treatment” would “remove one of the major obstacles to family care.”
I agree with one person who called this surgery “perverse.” It’s a ghastly and blatant act of eugenics. These doctors have been accused of maiming a child for the sake of convenience. Further, it opens the door to treating future disabled people with less respect than animals. Imagine the outcry if veterinarians had done this to a dog.
Ashley’s parents subjected her to major surgery, which had serious possible complications, including death – all for the sake of potential future health problems? I’m not buying it and I hope you don’t either! We must continue to speak out against this and other inhumane treatment of disabled members of society. Where will it end? It’s tragic that mankind has not learned a crucial lesson from history. When we begin to devalue human life, all human life is at risk.
President, Life Issues Institute
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