Mutilating Ashley for … whose good?

Mutilating Ashley for … whose good?

Every day it seems I see another story where a child is treated like a commodity or accessory by his parents, especially disabled children. Every day it seems the stories get worse. Ed Peters readily summarizes my own outrage at what the parents of 9-year-old Ashley have done to her.

It took me some time to grasp the reality that (in 2004, though the story is “breaking” only now) parents in Seattle directed a team of doctors to cut out the breast-buds of their nine-year-old, severally disabled daughter, remove her womb, and pump her full of growth-retarding hormones so that she stays little. You can read the parental rationales here. The genuine frustration these parents felt over the years is obvious; unfortunately, it only serves as the mortar that binds brick to brick in the wall of fallacious reasoning that Ashely’s parents have erected to defend their decision.

Diogenes addresses the question of what makes this different from actual therapeutic treatment (and provides a photo of poor Ashley.)

It’s the arbitrariness and—I suppose—the finality of the arbitrariness that are unsettling, because the steps are taken in anticipation of hardships and not in response to them. Of course we’d feel sympathy for a child who was neutered in the process of excising a lethal cancer. But surely it makes a difference to a person’s spiritual and emotional life to mutilate her with the purpose that she’ll never mature sexually—even if there’s no foreseeable possibility of a physiologically or socially normal existence in either case. Somehow parental prerogative has crossed a line into a kind of pet ownership (“we spayed kitty for her own good”). It would be a horrible plight for a parent to be constrained to remove a diseased organ from his child, and we could share the anguish of his decision—but can we say the same about the choice to remove a healthy organ?

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
  • Kirsten Dunst’s reaction in the film version of “Interview with A Vampire” comes to mind, sadly.

  • Apparently, these are not isolated procedures, and there is a logic to their being used; the following post is from a nurse in New Hampshire:

    I cannot say one way or the other as to whether the procedures done to this little girl are as necessary as the nurse claims, and I do agree that their description is horrifying, but I am also unsure that these things should be reflexively condemned as acts of selfishness on the part of the parents and medical personnel responsible for her care.

  • Dittos to what Diogenes says, especially when the anticipation is not really of the “suffering” of the child but the “parents having to watch their child suffer.”  I hate that.

    My parents were once hosting a Cursillo Ultreya, and someone was lamenting the impending death of his 80-something mother.

    “When John dies, it will be the happiest day of our lives,” my dad replied.
    Everyone was shocked.

    He said, “All he wants in life is to be a saint.  His greatest hope is that he’ll die and go to Heaven.  Who are we to begrudge him that?”