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Ashley X, comments and criticisms


In December I wrote a comment on therapy performed on a six-year-old girl with intellectual disability. In that therapy, her growth was stopped by adding estrogen, and her uterus and breast buds were removed. Early this year, her parents began their blog, and this case (Ashley X case) became widely known to the public.

On January 26th, Peter Singer wrote a comment in New York Times. He supported the parents' decision and concluded as follows:

What matters in Ashley’s life is that she should not suffer, and that she should be able to enjoy whatever she is capable of enjoying. Beyond that, she is precious not so much for what she is, but because her parents and siblings love her and care about her. Lofty talk about human dignity should not stand in the way of children like her getting the treatment that is best both for them and their families. (web)

On the other hand, disability groups such as Not Dead Yet and Feminist Response in Disability Activism strongly criticized this therapy. From Not Dead Yet's website:

Not Dead Yet, a national disability rights group dealing with medical and bioethics issues involving euthanasia, reacted today to the public debate about the so-called "growth attenuation" invasive medical experimentation performed on a young girl in Washington State. These procedures rendered her sterile, prevented any sort of puberty and will keep the girl the size she is now for the rest of her life.

"We are saddened but not surprised by the fact that this was publicized and met with a great deal of public approval," said Diane Coleman, founder of Not Dead Yet. "The public is willing to sanction the murders of disabled children by their parents, so it’s hardly surprising they would rush to the support of parents and their medical partners in a matter like this." (web)

One of the most striking comments the parents wrote in their blog is this: (Concerning the removal of the uterus,)

Additional and incidental benefits include avoiding any possibility of pregnancy, which to our astonishment does occur to disabled women who are abused. (web)

I can understand what they mean, however, at the same time, I feel somewhat horrified to read such a sentence because this implies that the parents actually imagine the possibility that their daughter might be sexually abused by someone.

They wrote this is an "additional and incidental" benefit. But I suppose that this might have been the most important reason, on the subconscious level, why they chose this therapy for their beloved daughter. I don't mean to offend the parents, for this is a difficult problem for all of us. In a case like this, what we would fear would be that our daughter becomes the target of sexual assault, and as a result, another human life comes into existence in her uterus. We can find here the darkest side of our sexuality, and this makes me depressed.

Photo: Kyoto Seika University, Kyoto

Related post: Should severely disabled children be kept small?

  -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

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