Well, since I am going to Seattle this weekend to see my buddies missdevylish and crankmama, I was googling Seattle, and naturally enough came across the incredibly interesting Pillow Angel story.
This Seattle based case involves a severely disabled nine-year-old girl called Ashley X (who her parents call Pillow Angel), who has, under their requst, undergone a hysterectomy, had her breast buds removed, and is having daily oestrogen treatments to ensure she will never grow taller than her current 4ft 5ins or weigh more than her present 75lbs.
Despite the fact that Pillow Angel has static encephalopathy and will never develop beyond the level of a three month old, I don't think anyone can help feeling horrified that parents would sanctify the mutilation of their child with unnecessary surgery.
But obviously there are two sides to this. Pillow Angel's parents want to care for her at home rather than putting her in a home, so it seems understandable that they want the child to stay small so that she is easier to carry about. They also say that they are protecting her from a hypothetical unwanted pregnancy as a result of hypothetical child abuse. This fear of abuse is also behind the removal of her breast buds, since apparently “large breasts run in the family”. They also say, "Ashley has no need for developed breasts since she will not breast feed," her parents argue, "and their presence would only be a source of discomfort to her."
The ethics committee of the Seattle Children's Hospital who allowed the treatment to go ahead essentially did a cost-benefit analysis and concluded that the rewards outweighed the risks. Keeping Ashley smaller and more portable, the doctors argued, has medical as well as emotional benefits: more movement means better circulation, digestion and muscle condition, and fewer sores and infections.
Ashley’s parents, responding to accusations that what they’d done was “grotesque”, wrote: “The oestrogen treatment is not what is grotesque here. Rather it is the prospect of having a full-grown fertile woman endowed with the mind of a baby.”
There is undoubtedly something incredibly creepy about parents who do not wish their daughter to become sexually mature. On the other hand, why should she be allowed to sexually develop, since she will never have sex (unless coerced)?
So mingled in with all the feelings of horror, I can understand why they did it. And if you want to attempt to understand their motivation, go to her parents' blog.
Okay, I don't know exactly where I stand on this issue. But one thing occured to me that maybe no one else has thought about. What if, in the future, when the girl has grown up, maybe even after her parents have died, what if there are new developments in medicine, whereby Pillow Angel is able to think in a more mature, maybe even in an adult fashion, maybe even be able to walk and funtion normally? How would she feel knowing her parents had done this to her? How would she feel, knowing they had stopped her from ever having a normal life? That's what really freaks me out about all this, that no one's given any thought to what could happen in the future.
Who am I? Displaced Londoner now living in the States with my two little girlies and long suffering husband. Co-author of hilarious parenting book Cocktails at Naptime www.cocktailsatnaptime.com
My mom's an Austrian, my dad's a Brit, which makes me a Britaustrian, or possibly an Austrish?