Human Exceptionalism

“Ashley’s Case” Values Spreading

Readers of SHS and those who keep up with disability rights issues will remember “Ashley’s case,” which I covered extensively (for example here, here. and in NRO here). The controversy concerned a little disabled girl given a non therapeutic hysterectomy, mastectomy, and hormones to keep her “small” for ease of care. After an investigation demanded by disability rights activists commenced, the Seattle hospital in which the surgeries were performed admitted it erred in performing surgery without a court order.

Well, now in the UK, a woman wants to subject her disabled daughter to a hysterectomy so she won’t menstruate. From the Guardian story:

Disability rights campaigners yesterday criticised a mother’s request for her teenage daughter, who has severe cerebral palsy to have a hysterectomy.

Alison Thorpe says the operation is in the best interests of her daughter, Katie, to spare her the monthly discomfort of menstruating. But the medical consent application being prepared on behalf of the 15-year-old from Billericay, Essex, has already proved controversial…

But Scope, the disability organisation that supports people with cerebral palsy, expressed concern. The surgery might not be in the teenager’s best interests and could have “disturbing” consequences for other children, the charity’s executive director, Andy Rickell, said.

He acknowledged that it was a difficult situation and was aware of the challenges faced by families like Katie’s.

He added: “It is very difficult to see how this kind of invasive surgery, which is not medically necessary and which will be very painful and traumatic, can be in Katie’s best interests.

“This case raises fundamental ethical issues about the way our society treats disabled people and the respect we have for disabled people’s human and reproductive rights. Scope is concerned that doctors are supporting parents in this case. If this enforced sterilisation is approved it will have disturbing implications for young disabled girls across Britain.

One can sympathize with the mother, but there are ways to control menstruation without removing a healthy uterus! (Not only are there drugs, but a new birth control pill can keep menstruation at bay until desired.)

Disability rights activists are right to be concerned about these trends. And doctors should be loath to engage in invasive procedures with no medical benefit to patients. Remember “do no harm?”

HT: Cheryl Eckstein

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