The American Dr Mengele.
Lady Bracknell’s editor e-mailed me a very disturbing article that has appeared in the Science and Health pages of Reuters. It seems that two Doctors in Seattle, Washington State, in the good ole United States of America have given a 6-year-old disabled child treatment to stop her growth so that her parents can continue to care for her at home. According to the doctors the young girl has a ‘profound, irreversible developmental disability’ and has been given high doses of estrogen to permanently halt her growth. The treatment, which also included a hysterectomy, was requested by the child’s parents and initiated after (the report says) ‘careful consultation and review by an ethics committee’.
I cannot see any justification for this brutal treatment of a child. Now the parents may be finding it hard to cope with a disabled child, I have no argument with that, and they may wish to keep their child like she is (however misguided that may seem). My argument is with the medical ‘profession’ for agreeing to do this.
The two doctors in question are Dr Daniel F Gunther and Dr Douglas S. Diekema who work at the University of Washington. In their report they note that ‘caring for children with profound developmental disabilities can be difficult and demanding’ they go on ‘For children with severe combined neurological and cognitive impairment (at least they’ve got the terminology right – Ed) who are unable to move without assistance, all the necessities of life – dressing, bathing, transporting – must be provided by caregivers, usually parents, and these tasks become increasingly difficult, if not impossible, as he child increases in size’. (Maybe this is the medical term for growing up!!! – Ed).
This dangerous nonsense continues. “Achieving permanent growth attenuation while a child is still young and of manageable size would remove one of the major obstacles to family care and might extend the time that parents with the ability, resources, and inclination to care for the child at home might be able to do so”.
Apparently “despite having the neurological development no greater than an infant, the 6-year-old responds to her parents and two healthy siblings –vocalizing and smiling in response to care and affection – and clearly is an integral, and much loved, member of the family” the doctors said in their report. Shame she hasn't been treated like one then isn't it?
The child is a year into this treatment and is reaching the end of her growth. The doctors have said, “as yet, there have been no treatment complications”. Well that’s all right then!! I wonder if they have considered the prospect of osteoporosis because of such an early hysterectomy
I cannot begin to express how appalled I am over this ‘treatment’. How dare someone experiment on a child? I suppose they think it is okay to do it on a disabled child as she won’t have the capacity to raise a concern, or so they say. How do the doctors know that the restriction on this child’s growth won’t have an adverse effect on her cognitive growth?
After the Second World War the Nuremberg trials sentenced doctors to death for carrying out experiments like this. In the land of the free it seems that, as long as the parents say it is okay, they can fuck up a young life by stopping them growing. Authors of a commentary on the treatment have called it ‘ill advised’ but have welcomed the debate that helps to “advance our ethical dialogue as we struggle to define our core values in words, laws and deeds. Only with further research and public discussion will we learn whether attempts to attenuate growth run with or against our fundamental values in caring for children with profound developmental disabilities”.
So it seems that it is okay to continue to experiment on disabled children because it raises a debate. There is only one thing to say about this. It is totally unacceptable and wrong to treat a child (disabled or not) like a laboratory rat. The Reuters report doesn’t once mention the welfare of the child. It concentrates on the parents only. Although caring for a disabled child with severe impairments must be a task we must always take into account their welfare before anybody else’s wishes. For once I hope the religious right in the US kick off about this and use all their influence with Bush to end this appalling state of affairs. If they don’t what will the next step be. Compulsory euthanasia for disabled children whose parents can’t cope?