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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Ashley Treatment Again?

I wrote about the Ashley Treatment in January and May for Counter Punch. Like many other people with a disability I was shocked and outraged that doctors would remove the uterus, appendix, spleen, and breast buds buds of a disabled girl. I was somewhat encouraged when the so called "Ashley Treatment" and the sterilization of Ashley X was declared unlawful by the Washington Protection and Advocacy System (WPAS). Surely no doctor would contemplate such an invasive, unnecessary, and ethically questionable treatment. Based on what was abuzz on the internet via parenting and disability rights blogs for many months this year no parent of a disabled girl would request the Ashley Treatment. I am quite wrong on both fronts. To this I can add the mainsteam media appears to be oblivious of the multitude of complaints disability rights activists have posted and acted upon on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

According to the UK Timesonline October 7 Alison Thorpe, mother of Katie, "a victim of severe cerebal palsy" has requested doctors "remove her womb" and appendix. To this end, Ms. Thorpe has consulted with Phil Roberts, a consultant at St. Johns Hospital in Chelsford, Esssex. Doctors are now consulting with lawyers to determine if they can sterilize Ms. Thorpe's daughter. Mainstream media outlets in the US failed to understand the broader implications of the Ashley Treatment and it appears the press in the UK is not better. The UK Times noted "the treatment would not be carried out on able bodied people" and that "even some disabled campaigners are critical of them" This sort of reporting is not just bad it borders on offensive. British and American disability rights activists were extremely critical and remain adamently opposed to the Ashley Treatment. Don't take my word for it, look it up on the internet and see for yourself.

I maintain the Ashley Treatment is one of the grossest violations of human rights. Katie's mother uses the same warped logic that Ashley's parents did to enable and empower them to mutilate their daughter. It is as though these parents think a person with a profound physical and mental disability never existed before. Happily unaware and hopelessly selfish, they have sought out a medical solution to a problem that is entirely social. The fact is disabled people are perceived to be less human and valued. What happens when parents of disabled children are critiqued? They mainstain critics have no conception of what it is like to care for disabled chidren. Give me a break. Perhaps parents that are considering the Ashley Treatment or those that think it is an appropriate course of action consider disabled people, all diabled people, are human. We crippled humans have rights even if we cannot articulate them. Just because one cannot see, hear, speak, or walk does not place us in a different sub-human category.

In the coming days I will eagerly follow what disability rights activists have to say. They need to act without delay as the institutional bias against the rights of disabled people are constantly being eroded away. One need only consider the sad state of the ADA and the way the Supreme Court in this country has narrrowed the law to the point of irrelevance. I sincerely hope my peers in the UK, especially the Disabled People's Movement, fare better. At least this time, there is a chance that a girl will not be subjected to needless surgery.

1 comment:

Ruth Madison said...

I've never heard of this! How horrifying. I don't know much about mental disabilities, but a girl with cerebral palsy? She could definitely want to and be capable of having children when she grows up and that choice is taken away from her by her parents? I have no words for how wrong that is.