The Ashley Treatment: Practical, But Ethical? Allison Veeder, RN
- Hitler times – medical experiments
- Kennedy sister – lobotomy
- Potential grave consequences that can result from irresponsible, or criminal, medical experiments. While we must be vigilant to protect innocent victims from such experimentation we cannot let that stifle our duty to continue making advances in healthcare and improving the lives of patients.
- Moral obligations should typically not be so demanding that enormous sacrificies must be made in order to fulfill them (Liao, Savulescu, & Sheehan, 2007).
- Beauchamp and Childress – ethical principles of autonomy
- One must ask if a treatment is practical does that make it ethical?
‘Hopes of keeping her as comfortable as possible’
‘”The Ashley Treatment” included high dose estrogen therapy, a hysterectomy, and breast bud removal.
Ashley had a normal birth, but her mental and motor faculties did not develop (“The Ashley Treatment,” 2007).
Ashley was diagnosed with encephalopathy of unknown etiology. This meant that she would forever have the mental capacity of an infant, though she had no physical deformities.
Although being awake and alert, Ashley cannot walk, talk, sit up, or even support her own head.
Ashley is cared for primarily by her parents and grandparents in their home.
Ashley’s parents state they became concerned when she developed precocious puberty at the age of six.
They spoke with their physician’s at Seattle Children’s Hospital about attenuating her growth process to minimize her adult height and weight. They also discussed two other treatments that they felt would enhance Ashley’s adult quality of life. One was a hysterectomy, which would prevent Ashley from feeling menstrual cramps and prevent the
heavy bleeding that would result from the estrogen therapy. The second was the removal of her breast buds. Ashley’s parents wanted to avoid the discomfort that large breasts would bring (her maternal and paternal lineage included large breast)
Ashley’s parents believed that by keeping her in a body that appears child like would be less likely to suffer sexual abuse from future caregivers.
Research has shown that females with disabilities are twice likely to suffer sexual abuse as females without disabilities (Clark & Vasta, 2007)
(1) Less likely to develop skin breakdown, infections...