Ashley treatment performed in New Zealand

In a recent New Zealand television news report, a mother explained why she elected to have her daughter Charley Hooper kept permanently childlike through the administration of high doses of hormones to keep her small and removal of her uterus and breasts to prevent sexual development. The very first procedure like this took place in Seattle, Washington and was made public in 2007.

This newest instance out of New Zealand is the first instance in the world in which a parent has spoken without the protection of anonymity about why she sought this controversial set of procedures, often referred to as the “Ashley Treatment” after the first young girl who was subjected to the procedures.

As described in Disability Rights Washington’s report about the original use of the Ashley Treatment in 2007, and a subsequent report it wrote in partnership with the National Disability Rights Network about medical discrimination in 2012, this set of procedures is rejected by a vast majority of individuals and organizations of people with disabilities. In conjunction with these reports, several people with developmental disabilities who routinely face the consequences of parents and doctors trying to make decisions about what medical interventions they should or should not receive shared their stories in a video Disability Rights Washington produced. Despite the ethical and rights based objections to this procedure, the report from New Zealand does not cover these factors much and the voice of actual people with disabilities appears to be entirely absent from the coverage.

The original use of the Ashley Treatment sparked conversations around the world, but the most recent one has not, as it looks like this story has not been covered outside of New Zealand.   Disability Rights Washington believes this is an important issue and should be an impetus for the general public, disability advocates, medical professionals, and national policy makers to further examine the adequacy of protections we have in place for children and adults with developmental disabilities who may be subjected to discriminatory medical interventions such as the Ashley Treatment.

We also believe that the voice of people with developmental and physical disabilities is essential for any meaningful discussion on this issue. The disability human rights perspective should not be dismissed in favor of emotional pleas or unwarranted deference to medical professionals. The underlying difficulty being addressed by these procedures is a social problem that requires a broader, better informed, and more engaged group of participants than has been assembled to examine this issue to date.

We are interested in hearing what you think should be done about the continued use of the Ashley Treatment.  We also encourage you to please share this message to help spread the word that people can join the conversation and stay informed by signing up for DRW’s Medical Discrimination mailing list.

Related links

Ashley treatment: the investigation