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Surgeons "maimed" brain damaged child to "convenience" caregivers, health advocate charges
NewsTarget.com printable article
Originally published January 10 2007
Surgeons "maimed" brain damaged child to "convenience" caregivers, health
by Ben Kage
(NewsTarget) A 9-year-old mentally disabled Seattle girl named Ashley has
recently finished 2 1/2 years of hospital treatments, ostensibly performed
to make her easier to care for throughout her life, but a health advocate is
calling the act "medicine gone mad."
Due to a severe brain impairment called a static encephalopathy, Ashley is
unable to walk, must be fed through a tube, and her parents report her
developmental levels have not advanced since she was 3 months old. The
procedures, approved by the Seattle Children's Hospital medical ethics
board, included a hysterectomy, breast bud removal and estrogen treatments,
all designed to keep the girl's body small.
Ashley is brought to the hospital every three months to give doctors the
opportunity to monitor her estrogen levels, as well as her height and
weight. These treatments mean that Ashley will probably not grow much beyond
her current 4-foot-4, 70-pound frame; a move made to keep her from being too
heavy for her parents and grandmother -- her caregivers -- to move her.
"We want to avoid sensationalism or philosophical debates about what we did
and why we did it," say her caregivers on their website. "We'd rather care
for and enjoy Ashley than get into endless debates."
Health advocate Mike Adams said there was no excuse for the procedures.
"What has happened here is appalling and a violation of basic medical
ethics," Adams said. "To physical and chemically maim this child for the
convenience of her caregivers is criminal. By what insanity does a
9-year-old girl require a hysterectomy? This is medicine gone mad."
According to Dr. Benjamin Wilfond, a specialist in pediatric bioethics at
the children's hospital, he was startled when he first heard about the case.
Although he was not on the board when it authorized the treatment, Wilfond
said the board agreed because the members believed it would benefit the
child, and that he understood the decision.
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