- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 9, 2007

SEATTLE (AP) — A hospital acknowledged breaking state law when doctors performed a hysterectomy on a severely developmentally disabled girl whose growth was medically stunted to make caring for her easier for her parents.

Sterilization surgeries must not be performed on children without a court order, Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center acknowledged Tuesday after an investigation by Washington Protection and Advocacy System. The hospital agreed to appoint “someone with a disability rights perspective” to its ethics committee.

The girl, identified only as Ashley, underwent surgery in 2004, when she was 6, to remove her uterus and breast tissue and was given growth-stunting hormones.

The hospital’s ethics committee supported the treatment but noted 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.

“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 cannot sit up, walk or speak. Her parents say keeping her small will allow them to continue caring for her at home even when she is an adult. Her treatment also will allow her to avoid menstruation and related discomfort, as well as breast cancer, which runs in the family, her parents say.

Some critics call the parents’ actions perverse and akin to eugenics.

On their blog Tuesday, Ashley’s parents praised the vigilance of the advocacy group that investigated the case. But they also said they hoped requiring court orders in such cases would not create obstacles for parents seeking the best care for disabled children.

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