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Advocates Angered, Worried At British Mum's Sterilization Order
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 11, 2007

BILLERICAY, ENGLAND--British disability groups expressed outrage and worry this week over a mother's plan to have doctors perform a hysterectomy on her teenage daughter, who has cerebral palsy and intellectual disabilities.

Alison Thorpe has already found a doctor to agree to perform the sterilization surgery on 15-year-old Katie Thorpe. The doctor is now waiting for approval from legal experts.

Ms. Thorpe told The Telegraph that she wants the elective surgery to spare her daughter from "the mood swings, the discomfort and the indignity" of decades of menstrual periods.

"If Katie had stomach cramps she wouldn't be able to say 'Mum I've got really bad period pains' she would be in pain and we wouldn't know," she explained.

If the doctor goes ahead with the procedure, it would be the first time in the United Kingdom that a hysterectomy was performed when there was no medical reason for the surgery.

Disability advocates have responded that forcing the procedure on Katie Thorpe would cross a line that could lead to more young people with disabilities being sterilized for social rather than medical reasons.

"It is really unacceptable that the for the first time in the UK that doctors want to remove a girl's womb simply because of being disabled," said Simone Aspis of the Disabled Peoples Council.

Andy Rickell, executive director of the charity Scope, wrote in the New Statesman: "A key question in this complex case is who is really representing Katie's wishes?"

"The wishes of her mother and the medical professionals consulted are clear, but what about those of Katie herself? It is obvious to us that the wishes of parents do not necessarily match the best interests of the child in every situation."

Katie's situation is somewhat similar to the case of "Ashley X", which came to light last November. In that case, the parents of the then-six-year-old girl, who has intellectual disabilities, asked Seattle doctors to perform a set of treatments -- including a hysterectomy, massive doses of estrogen, and surgical removal of her breast buds -- to keep her physically small and to avoid puberty. The parents said they chose what was later dubbed the "Ashley Treatment" to keep their "Pillow Angel" from the discomfort of menstruation and to make it easier for them to care for her at home.

The Washington Protection and Advocacy System, now Disability Rights Washington, later found that the operation was illegal and violated Ashley's rights under Washington state law.

In a related story, the Seattle Times reported Thursday that Dr. Daniel F. Gunther, the Children's Hospital & Regional Medical Center physician who supported Ashley's parents in their efforts, has committed suicide.

Gunther's family members and colleagues have told reporters that the physician had experienced periods of depression in the past, and that they did not believe the Ashley X case had anything to do with his suicide.

"Disabled girl to have womb removed" (The Telegraph)
"Does mother really know best?" (Cambridge News)
"Hysterectomy an abuse of human rights" (New Statesman)
"Doctor who backed controversial operation on child commits suicide" (Seattle Times)
"Disability Advocates Respond To "Ashley Treatment" Designed To Keep Girl Small" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

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