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another viewpoint on Ashley issue

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    another viewpoint on Ashley issue


    A Convenient Truth


    Lofty talk about human dignity should not stand in the way of profoundly intellectually disabled children getting the treatment that is best both for them and their families.

    Op-Ed Contributor

    A Convenient Truth

    By PETER SINGER NYT Published: January 26, 2007

    Melbourne, Australia

    CAN it be ethical for a young girl to be treated with hormones so she will remain below normal height and weight, to have her uterus removed and to have surgery on her breasts so they will not develop? Such treatment, applied to a profoundly intellectually disabled girl known only as Ashley, has led to criticism of Ashley’s parents, of the doctors who carried out the treatment, and of the ethics committee at Seattle Children’s Hospital, which approved it.

    Ashley is 9, but her mental age has never progressed beyond that of a 3-month-old. She cannot walk, talk, hold a toy or change her position in bed. Her parents are not sure she recognizes them. She is expected to have a normal lifespan, but her mental condition will never improve.

    In a blog, Ashley’s parents explain that her treatment is not for their convenience but to improve her quality of life. If she remains small and light, they will be able to continue to move her around frequently and take her along when they go out with their other two children. The hysterectomy will spare her the discomfort of menstrual cramps, and the surgery to prevent the development of breasts, which tend to be large in her family, will make her more comfortable whether lying down or strapped across the chest in her wheelchair.

    All this is plausible, even if it is also true that the line between improving Ashley’s life and making it easier for her parents to handle her scarcely exists, because anything that makes it possible for Ashley’s parents to involve her in family life is in her interest.

    The objections to Ashley’s treatment take three forms familiar to anyone working in bioethics. First, some say Ashley’s treatment is “unnatural” — a complaint that usually means little more than “Yuck!” One could equally well object that all medical treatment is unnatural, for it enables us to live longer, and in better health, than we naturally would. During most of human existence, children like Ashley were abandoned to become prey to wolves and jackals. Abandonment may be a “natural” fate for a severely disabled baby, but it is no better for that reason.....

    (If I put too much text let me know and I'll edit)
    Last edited by Liz321; 28 Jan 2007, 5:00 PM.
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