The London Guardian recently featured a series of stories regarding families who have carried out, or are in the process of carrying out, “Ashley’s Treatment,” a controversial medical procedure that limits the growth of children with severe disabilities.
Ashley’s Treatment made international news in 2007, when a Seattle-area couple had their 9-year-old child, Ashley, undergo a surgery that consisted of hormone doses and the removal of Ashley’s uterus and breast buds.
Ashley’s parents told the Guardian that the surgery was in Ashley’s best interest.
“The Ashley treatment has made her far more likely to be comfortable, healthy and happy,” Ashley’s father said. “Given the limitations imposed by her medical condition, her life is as good as we can possibly make it.”
The treatment, however, sparked a backlash from disability rights activists, and a larger discussion among bioethicists and the medical profession. Disability Rights Washington investigated the procedure and in a report, published in May 2007, detailed the ways in which the procedure violated Ashley’s rights. Disability Rights Washington later reached an agreement with the hospital limiting its use of Ashley’s treatment.
“This is a violation of the civil rights of individuals, and it should be prohibited,” Curt Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, told the Guardian. “Parents have rationalised that this is an OK thing to do, but it treats people as though they have no worth and that’s a slippery slope that could end with the idea that people with disabilities don’t have to be kept alive or integrated in society.”
Disability Rights Washington and the National Disability Rights Network are currently working on a report, due in April, that will call on Congress, states and individual hospitals to ban Ashley’s Treatment.