Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

I could not stand it anymore and had to voice my opinion on this issue. The “Ashley Treatment” is generating a lot of controversy with much coverage in the media. In case you haven’t heard of this case, (although I fail to see how that is possible) let’s go over what exactly, this treatment is.

There is a severely disabled little girl named Ashley. The cause of her disability remains unknown but her prognosis is clear. She functions at the three month-old level and that is never going to change. Physically, she was expected to grow normally. The treatment was designed to alter the physical growth and keep Ashley child-sized. This was achieved through a combination of high dose estrogen along with surgery. The surgery included a hysterectomy, appendectomy as well as removal of the breast buds.

The parents maintain a blog that details the procedure as well as their rationale for seeking it out. They believe that the smaller size will benefit their daughter in many ways. It will allow them to keep her in the home and care for her. She will be more easily transportable in order to travel with the family. The hysterectomy will prevent her from suffering from menstrual cramps that serve no purpose and would otherwise cause her pain that she could not understand. The appendectomy was done because it is a simple and convenient to remove the appendix during a hysterectomy. Removing it eliminated the possibility of appendicitis, which could prove be fatal in someone that could not communicate their pain. Finally, there was the breast bud removal. This is one that really gets the hard-core feminists going. That was done for practical reasons as well. Ashley is normally lying down or strapped to a seat. Women in the family tend to have large breasts and that can cause discomfort. There is also a family history of breast cancer. The family also mentions that a child-sized body is more appropriate given Ashley’s mental age. Breasts could sexualize her to a care provider and make her a target for abuse.

So, now let’s get to the controversy. The family and the doctors are being attacks by various groups from feminists to advocates for the disabled. Here is an example of what the feminists have to say. The disabled groups have concerns as well. What gives the parents the right to make this decision for their child? Doesn’t this amount to “mutilation” for the convenience of the family?

It seems like anytime we reach a new medical milestone, we have the people screaming, “Slippery Slope! Slippery Slope! My God, what’s next? I’ll tell you what’s next. We’ll be exterminating old people and the ones that aren’t perfect, that’s what!” In response to that, I would just like to say that this is not about you. This is one family doing what they feel is best for a daughter that they love. Parents make decisions for their children and these parents were confronted with an especially difficult one. Typically, parents want the best for their children and I do not believe that these parents are any different. Let’s not forget, this decision was carefully considered by a full ethics panel before being given approval. I think it is really easy to sit back and say that this is wrong and the parents should be arrested, not to mention the doctors. But really, if you take a look at the parent’s blog and really consider what they are saying, I think you just might get it.

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