The Ashley Treatment: Best Interests, Convenience, and Parental Decision-making

Ashley was born with a condition called static encephalopathy, a severe brain impairment that leaves her unable to walk, talk, eat, sit up or roll over. In 2004, she was given the ‘Ashley Treatment,’ which included high-dose estrogen therapy to stunt her growth; the removal of her uterus via hysterectomy to prevent menstrual discomfort; and the removal of her breast buds to limit the growth of her breasts. Ashley’s parents argue that the Ashley Treatment was intended “to improve our daughter’s quality of life and not to convenience her caregivers.” In this paper, we argue for four conclusions. First, body modification of the Ashley Treatment type may, in the case of Ashley, be in her best interests. Secondly, it is not necessarily wrong though to act out of the motive to convenience caregivers, that is, the interests of parents or other caregivers. Thirdly, even if stunting Ashley’s growth may be ethically justifiable, the removal of her uterus and her breast buds are more questionable. Finally, Ashley’s case calls to attention the fact that every able person in our society may have a duty to provide support and assistance to those who are giving care, not just to the likes of Ashley, but also to normal children, the elderly and others in care. [The Hastings Center Report 37 (2) 2007: 16-20, with Julian Savulescu and Mark Sheehan] [pdf | html]

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May 4th, 2008 | By | Category: Bioethics

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