Posted by: reisendame | October 8, 2007

Mentally disabled better off without wombs, some say

Doctors are seeking legal advice to determine whether or not they may fulfill a British woman’s request to have her 15 year old daughter’s womb surgically removed.

Alison Thorpe is not trying to avoid premature pregnancy or stamp out the family line; instead, she’s concerned for the well-being of her daughter Katie, who is afflicted with cerebral palsy.


This kind of surgery is referred to as the “Ashley treatment,” after a nine year old girl with the mentally of a three-month old has had a hysterectomy and her breat buds removed in order to stop her body from developing.

Thorpe says that Katie will not understand the pain and emotional baggage that comes with monthly menstruation for all other women. She didn’t mention this part, but I would assume that the bleeding would also terrify a young girl.

Andy Rickell, director of the disability charity Scope, says that such an invasive surgery would set a disturbing precedent for young girls with disabilities. He also says that the surgery is medically unnecessary and certainly infringes on human and reproductive rights for disabled people.

This is a touchy subject, because one must wonder what rights mentally disabled people are actually entitled to, especially when it comes to rearing and raising their own children. In the U.K., 40-60% of children born to a disabled parent are removed from that parent’s care.

But, as aforementioned, Thorpe says her quest is purely for relieving Katie of the traumas of menstruation. Clearly, she has no expectations of her daughter ever becoming pregnant or enduring nine months of pregnancy.

I can see her point, but in my opinion, womb removal may be going a bit too far. Menstruation and puberty are, after all, natural processes of all female human development. A natural physical phenomenon may actually be easier for a disabled woman to understand and even embrace than she would with that kind of surgery. Many doctors would say that mentally disabled people are actually blessed with a deeper intuition than “normal” people; in fact, Katie may feel something is inherently wrong or missing afer she undergoes the surgery. Some doctors suggest hormonal therapy as a means of coping with problematic side effects of menstruation. Surgery without consent should never be performed without a pressing clinical reason.

That’s just my opinion, though. This one’s for the lawyers.


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