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An Ethically Unsound "Therapy"

Wesley J. Smith

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Emotions and motives to the side, this radical procedure is unjustifiable.

Doctors at Seattle Children's Hospital admitted that they surgically removed a six-year-old girl's healthy uterus, breast buds, and appendix, and then subjected her to two years of high-dose estrogen injections to keep her from reaching adult stature. And they did so at her parents' request. Sounds like a clear case of child abuse, doesn't it?

Not so fast. Many are justifying these actions because the girl in question was profoundly disabled with a neurological disease that left her with the mental and physical capacities of an infant. Moreover, they point out, her parents were motivated by the loving desire to keep her "small" so she could always be cared for at home. The question thus becomes: Do these motivating factors transform a seemingly clear case of child abuse into acceptable acts of loving care?

These are the intensely controversial questions that we face in the case of "Ashley X," an anonymous disabled girl from Seattle whose parents and doctors are promoting "Ashley's Treatment" -- described above -- as a medical method of enabling profoundly disabled children to remain in the care of their parents when they become adults. Accordingly, Drs. Daniel F. Gunther and Douglas S. Diekema asserted last October in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine that there was a "compelling case" for acceding to "a parent's desire to seek growth attenuation" for a profoundly cognitively disabled, non ambulatory child.

Read the entire article on the National Review Online website (new window will open).

Posted: 11-Mar-07



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