Thursday, January 11, 2007

Everyone is offering their two cents, so here are mine.

I have been following, with great fascination, the debate surrounding "The Ashley Treatment."

Ashley is a beautiful little girl. She is the same age as my son. That is where the similarities end. As explained on her parents' blog, Ashley has static encephalopathy. For reasons unknown, her brain has not developed past the mental age of 3 months. She cannot talk, walk, move purposefully, feed herself, or even hold her head up. She is completely dependent upon her loving parents for every aspect of her care.

Ashley's body, however, has developed. In fact, she started displaying signs of precocious puberty at the age of six. Ashley's mother wondered if puberty could and/or should be accelerated in order to minimize her final height and weight. After careful consideration and extensive vetting with the Bioethics Committee of Seattle Children's Hospital, a course of high-dose estrogen therapy was pursued. Ashley's uterus, appendix, and breast buds were also removed. The reason for this surgery, which makes perfect sense to me, is explained in detail on the parents' blog. Ashley's final height is 4'5", as opposed to the 5'6" that she probably would have attained.

After "The Ashley Treatment" was described in medical journals, a media storm erupted. Inevitably, there has been a backlash from many communities, including disability activists and feminists.

What strikes me about the hue and cry emanating from the critics, is that the focus is on Ashley's "stunted growth." Abuse is hurled at Ashley's parents, accusing them of putting their own "convenience" ahead of Ashley's potential and of her "human dignity."

Well, I'm only 6 inches taller than Ashley, and I'm here to tell you that there is nothing wrong with being a person of small stature. There is nothing undignified about being petite. I would go so far as to argue that Ashley's dignity will be preserved, because this "growth attenuation treatment" will enable Ashley to remain in her home, with a family who clearly loves and cherishes her.

Ashley's parents are clearly intelligent, loving people, who embarked upon this course of action with their child's best interests in mind. They are to be commended, not cursed. And the rest of us should thank our maker that we have not walked in their shoes.


Anonymous said...

To begin with, I would note that I am a Licensed Social Worker, now retired.
I spent over 30 years working with parents of children with developmental disabilaties, as well as with the children. As far as I am able to determine, these parents have given great thought to their daughter's future and are to be commemded, not reviled. They have done a wise and wonderful thing.

Anonymous said...

The CNN story bothered me because it used a boy who may be disabled, but is not in the condition of Ashley. If he can blog, that's more than it appears this girl can do.

Even if it were for the parent's convenience, if a child can do no more than smile and this makes it easier to get that child to smile, good. What dignity is lost? Was she going to be a mother some day? No. Good post Rose.

As far as I can tell, the parents acted in good faith, and it seems the ethicists were of the same opinion. I guess people would feel better if the parents just gave up and put the kid in a home for other people to deal with.