Thursday, October 11, 2007

Returning to Ashley

There are two stories of note that follow on the Ashley growth attenuation surgery case.

The lead physician, Dr. Daniel Gunther, died of carbon monoxide poisoning on Sept. 30. It was recently ruled a suicide.

More chilling, a family in Britain is considering removing their disabled daughter's uterus to "spare her the pain, discomfort and indignity of menstruation."

I agree with the findings of the ethics committee reviewing Ashley's case that it was unethical on many levels. And I am disturbed that this type of procedure is being considered again. While I do not believe that hypothetical reproductive viability ought to outweigh one's health, the drastic measures taken (removal of organs) for ease-of-care purposes was an example of poor judgment and skewed priorities.


Kelly Hills said...

I'm sorry to see that suicide - which, by at least some reports, was a death contributed to by the often excessively personal and judgmental reaction of the bioethics community - is less chilling than an ongoing ethical discussion.

It seems to me that there is little purpose in including two short sentences on Dr. Gunther's death in this, other than to continue the stigmatization he faced for being willing to perform the procedure, which you make personal by listing it as an example of poor judgment and skewed priorities.

It's one thing to discuss the ethical ramifications of new and controversial procedures, but the bioethics community as a whole should be ashamed at itself, for how so much of the 'debate' devolved into persona attack and judgment.

SabrinaW said...

I'm not going to sidetrack into emphasizing how tragic any suicide is; I figured such was assumed. It is sad and unfortunate, regardless of your position on the issue, and both of these stories are tragic followups to Ashley's case.

I do find it highly troubling that even after an ethics committee determined that there were serious errors in that case, a similar procedure is being considered by another parent. I also did not attribute the poor judgment to the physician; in fact, I believe everyone, including the parents of Ashley, were not prioritizing effectively. Lastly, if you read the article on the case in Britain, there is an emphasis on the parents' convenience, not on the patient's. Tell me how that should outweigh anyone's bodily integrity.

Stephen Drake said...

As in most news stories, there's a "first wave" - which often contains speculation instead of fact. The story sited belongs to the "first wave."

"Second wave" stories don't reach as many readers, but contain more factual information. The "second wave" story on Dr. Gunther is that he has been struggling with depression for years.


wreese said...

These are both tragic cases, with Dr. Gunther's suicide bringing another level of sadness and tragedy to the overall picture.

In the final wash, it's my belief that it's always easier to make judgments and to form opinions about situations that don't require one to walk in the shoes of those who do have to make the tough choices/painful decisions.
Tragic for all involved.