Friday, January 12, 2007

The Ashley Treatment - Schiavo Redux

The disability community is in an uproar over Ashley.

She's nine years old, although her intellectual development ceased when she was only a few months old. She has never learned, nor will she ever learn, to walk, talk, or do anything other than smile. So severe is her disability that she still cannot roll over, or even hold her head up unsupported.

Her parents are now the subject of protests. In the 1960's, it was considered "undesirable" for girls to be tall, so doctors found a way to stunt their growth using high doses of estrogen therapy. It sounds absurd to us now, but it happened. The girls that received such therapy in their childhood grew into adults, and have had no negative effects from the treatment.

Walk a mile in the shoes of her parents. Ashley is now a normal-sized nine-year-old child. At 75 pounds, she's reached the upper threshold of what her parents can reasonably carry around--- And make no mistake--- If she's going somewhere, they're carrying her.

So they've put her through the estrogen therapy. In addition, they gave her a hysterectomy so that this girl with the intellectual development of an infant will not have to deal with menstruation and had her breast buds removed.

It sounds horrible, but it's probably one of the greatest gifts they could have given her. Her parents will not live forever. When they die, or even when they are simply too old to carry her around anymore, someone else will have to take care of their child. Although sexual abuse by a caregiver is fairly rare, it does happen. By stunting their daughter's physical development, they've reduced the odds of that and made it so that even if it did, Ashley won't become pregnant.

Her parents did not seek attention for this. The doctors that treated her wrote of it in a medical journal, and the article got nationwide attention. And now the parents are being criticized for the treatment, much as Michael Schiavo was for allowing his wife to go to her long overdue final peace.

They've set up a blog that tells their side of the story and explains the treatment and their reasoning behind it in great detail. They should be lauded for making the extremely difficult choice they had to make.

1 comment:

Dabney said...

People should never have to justify medical decisions that they made, especially such personal and private ones as these. I have never understood why the public feels that this is there business at all.