Jan 12, 2007

activists decry "Ashley treatment"

As I noted previously, area doctors' (and parents') decision to stunt a severely developmentally disabled girl's growth is not only ethically questionable, but is now meeting legal resistance.
"It is unethical and unacceptable to perform intrusive and invasive medical procedures on a person or child with a disability simply to make the person easier to care for," said Steven Taylor, director of Syracuse University's Center on Human Policy....

The Washington state attorney general's office said it is evaluating a complaint from a New Jersey disabled-rights activist. The state has no laws prohibiting forced sterilization....

About 25 protesters, some in wheelchairs, demonstrated outside the AMA's Chicago headquarters Thursday, chanting, "Accommodations, not operations."

"As far as I'm concerned, it was mutilation," said Donna Harnett, 42, who brought her brain-damaged 10-year-old son, Martin, to the protest.

Dr. Frederick Rivara, the journal's editor, said he published the case not out of support or opposition, but to bring it to doctors' attention "and to have exactly this kind of discussion in the scientific community about is this the right thing to do or not."
The problem is, an "accommodations, not operations" stance vastly oversimplifies the issues. Doctors perform radical operations all the time; would Harnett argue that "amputation is mutilation?" Would someone who has a limb lengthened so they can walk without crutches be guilty of self-mutilation? Shouldn't "quality of life" be a fair criterion for medical treatment?

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