The Ashley debate

For those of you who have missed it, a debate is raging over little Ashley, a 9-year-old disabled girl from Seattle. Ashley has "static...

For those of you who have missed it, a debate is raging over little Ashley, a 9-year-old disabled girl from Seattle. Ashley has "static encephalopathy of unknown etiology", which means doctors don't really know why her mental and motor faculties never developed. They do know, however, that the condition is permanent.

This is what led to her parents' decision to instruct doctors to stunt Ashley's growth. She will now forever have the body of a 9-year-old, which, her parents say, will make it easier to care for her and relieve her of such things as periods and breasts.

The decision has provoked such intense, emotional, and widespread debate that the treatment is now referred to simply as "Ashley Treatment." Many people are responding in horror. The ethics behind her parents' decision is being questioned in forums around the world.

Her father has responded in typical 21st century fashion: by writing a blog to explain the decision. Whatever one may think of his ultimate decision, the blog certainly personalizes the story in the news. It makes one think about the position these parents found themselves in and the difficult decisions they faced. It even seems to have persuaded the Times of London to back them in its editorial pages.

Wherever this debate leads, it has got people thinking about families raising severely disabled children, which can't be a bad thing. Medical News Today put it succinctly : "...and perhaps this debate will cause policy makers to think about how funds and resources are apportioned to line up with their needs."

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