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Mum Credits Disability Rights Advocates With Blocking Daughter's Sterilization
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 17, 2008

BILLERICAY, ENGLAND--Disability rights advocates are being credited, or blamed, for stopping a controversial sterilization operation from happening.

Doctors are refusing to perform the hysterectomy and appendectomy on 15-year-old Katie Thorpe that her mother had requested.

Last October, Alison Thorpe announced that she had arranged for a doctor to remove her daughter's uterus in order to keep Katie, who has cerebral palsy and an intellectual disability, from experiencing "the discomfort and the indignity" of decades of menstruation. Ms. Thorpe also wanted her daughter's appendix removed because her daughter would not be able to tell her if she were to ever have appendicitis.

That doctor said he was just waiting for approval from legal experts.

Disability rights groups in the United Kingdom and elsewhere expressed outrage, and responded that forcing the procedure on Katie would cross a line that could lead to more young people with disabilities being sterilized for social rather than medical reasons.

Ms. Thorpe told the Daily Mail this week that the Mid Essex Hospital Services National Health Service Trust has refused to allow the surgery because there is no medical need for it. She said she believed doctors had given into pressure from those groups that opposed her daughter's surgery.

"I think the trust has bowed down to what they perceived to be public opinion, that is my personal belief," she said. "I feel the trust misread the so-called lack of support from the minority, groups such as Scope.

Sharon Collins, executive director of the mental disability charity Scope, told the Press Association: "We have always felt that an irreversible procedure of this nature that is not clinically necessary is not the right way forward. We have also always been surprised that any doctor in the UK would contemplate such a measure."

Rachel Hurst, a spokesperson for the Disabled People's Council, told The Telegraph: "There are so many approaches, this is a completely inappropriate response to the situation. To violate Katie's rights is not the answer."

Katie's situation is somewhat similar to the case of "Ashley X", which came to light in November 2006. 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.

"Hospital won't remove disabled girl's womb" (The Telegraph)
"Disability Advocates Respond To "Ashley Treatment" Designed To Keep Girl Small" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

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