Text Size: A A A
The Ashley Treatment: Best Interests, Convenience, and Parental Decision-Making Can we justify surgically altering a severely impaired child?

Ashley was born with a severe brain impairment that leaves her unable to walk, talk, eat, sit up, or roll over. In 2004, her parents and the doctors at Seattle’s Children’s Hospital devised what they called the “Ashley Treatment”—high-dose estrogen therapy to stunt her growth, removal of her uterus via hysterectomy to prevent menstrual discomfort, and removal of her breast buds to limit the growth of her breasts. Were these treatments in Ashley’s best interests? Do they treat her as a person with dignity and respect, and were they likely to make her life go better?

Ashley was born with a severe brain impairment that leaves her unable to walk, talk, eat, sit up, or roll over. In 2004, her parents and the doctors at Seattle’s Children’s Hospital devised what they called the “Ashley Treatment”—high-dose estrogen therapy to stunt her growth, removal of her uterus via hysterectomy to prevent menstrual discomfort, and removal of her breast buds to limit the growth of her breasts. Were these treatments in Ashley’s best interests? Do they treat her as a person with dignity and respect, and were they likely to make her life go better?

S. Matthew Liao, Julian Savulescu, and Mark Sheehan, “The Ashley Treatment: Best Interests, Convenience, and Parental Decision-Making,” Hastings Center Report 37, no. 2 (2007): 16-20.