The Ashley Treatment: Best Interests, Convenience, And Parental Decision-Making (Essay)

The story of Ashley, a nine-year-old from Seattle, has caused a good deal of controversy since it appeared in the Los Angeles Times on January 3, 2007. (1) 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. According to her doctors, Ashley has reached, and will remain at, the developmental level of a three-month-old. (2) In 2004, Ashley’s parents and the doctors at Seattle’s Children’s Hospital devised what they called the “Ashley Treatment,” which included high-dose estrogen therapy to stunt Ashley’s 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.” (3) They also “decided to share our thoughts and experience … to help families who might bring similar benefits to their bedridden ‘Pillow Angels,'” which means that this treatment has public policy implications.

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