The Knucklehead of the Day award
Today's winner is the Seattle Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center. They get the award for the following.
A Seattle hospital acknowledged breaking state law when doctors performed a hysterectomy on a severely developmentally disabled girl whose parents have pursued medical treatments to stunt her growth, in order to make her easier to care for.No matter what you think of Ashley's condition, the hospital was wrong to do what they did. The decision wasn't theirs alone and the hospital admits it. That's good enough for me to make Seattle Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center today's Knucklehead of the Day.
Sterilization surgeries must not be performed on children without a court order, Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center said Tuesday after an investigation by the Washington Protection and Advocacy System, a non-profit group advocating for the rights of people with disabilities. The hospital also agreed to appoint "someone with a disability rights perspective" to its ethics committee.
Doctors performed the experimental surgeries in 2004, removing the girl's uterus and breast buds. The girl, identified only as "Ashley," was 6 years old at the time. The hospital's ethics committee supported the treatment, which included hormone therapy, but noted before the surgeries that court review would be required.
A lawyer for the girl's parents disagreed, saying the state law did not apply in Ashley's case, and the hospital performed the procedures without court permission. Ashley was diagnosed with severe brain damage shortly after birth, and her condition has left her in an infantile state, unable to sit up, roll over, hold a toy or walk or talk.
"We deeply regret that a court order was not obtained and that an independent third party was not sought to represent Ashley. We take full responsibility for the miscommunication between the ethics committee and the treating physicians," said Dr. David Fisher, the hospital's medical director. "We have introduced new safeguards so that procedures requiring a court order will have one obtained before they begin."
Ashley's doctors touched off a highly charged ethical debate when they wrote about her treatment in October's Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. Some critics decried the parents' actions as perverse and akin to eugenics. Her parents maintained that keeping her small would make her more comfortable and allow them to move her more easily and take better care of her.
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