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'Ashley Treatment': Improving the Quality of Life for Whom?
The biggest concern for an expecting parent is to have a healthy and happy child. Imagine the devastation of finding out your child will never develop into a mature adult or child. Having to face the reality that your childs cognitive abilities will never develop past that of an infants. This is the ill-fate faced by parents of children born with severe mental disabilities.
The first decision made by any loving parent is to devote their time to ensuring their child enjoys the best quality of life possible. But, as time develops, it becomes clear that the task will not be an easy one. Though the child's mental abilities will not develop his physical body will. As the child grows it becomes very difficult to move them from place to place and their lack of movement causes their limbs to become stiff, which makes the situation even more difficult.
A new treatment has been developed in order to lessen the load on parents. Growth Attenuation treatment, aka Ashley Treatment, is a hormone treatment administered by an endocrinologist. The procedure was first performed on a young girl named Ashley, by a team of doctors at Seattle children's hospital. The treatment, given over a period of time, would permanently stunt the growth of the child. It would also prevent her body from going through puberty and the drama associated with it. The treatment includes high doses of estrogen which would cause the closure of the growth plates in the childs bones and stop their growth. It also includes surgically removing breast buds in girls to avoid the discomfort of breasts later in life, and a hysterectomy to avoid menstruation.
Since the first treatment other families have followed suit. They claim that this provides a better quality of life for their children, since they don't have to deal with things they don't understand. The claim is also that its better for the child because they can be moved around and transported easier. The real question her is is this morally/ethically right? Is it truly the right thing for the child? Or, is it just making life easier for the parent?
New Graduate School for Global Inclusion and Social Development of Persons with Disabilities - UMass