Dr. Diekema’s own conditions disapprove Ashley’s hysterectomy
August 18, 2008 by huahima
Dr. Diekema wrote the following paper on involuntary sterilization of people with mental disabilities in 2003.
Involuntary sterilization of persons with mental retardation: an ethical analysis.
Ment Retard Dev Disabil Res Rev. 2003; 9(1):21-6 (ISSN: 1080-4013)
Its abstract is available here.
According to the abstract, Dr. Diekema gave four conditions for involuntary sterilization of mentally disabled women to be considered. He said it should be considered only when a) the procedure is necessary, b) sterilization would serve the best interests of the mentally retarded person, c) less intrusive and temporary methods of contraception or control of menstruation are not acceptable alternatives and d) procedural safeguards have been implemented to assure a fair decision-making process.
How could he approve only one year later the parents’ request for Ashley’s hysterectomy that did not meet his own conditions?
This paper is actually mentioned indirectly in the Gunther & Diekema paper about growth attenuation (2006). The latter says that ethical consideration of hysterectomy decision making was discussed “elsewhere” and directs readers by the note number to the above paper in the references.
This raises two more questions.
1. Why did they write about hysterectomy only in the context of side effect prevention in the growth attenuation paper?
The doctors’ initial paper on growth attenuation writes about Ashley’s hysterectomy only in the context of side effect prevention in hormone therapy. Just as if Ashley’s hysterectomy had been a necessary evil for side effect reduction. It is also only “as an adjunct” to the “prophylactic” hysterectomy coming as a set with the hormone treatment that they mention advantages of hysterectomy; elimination of future menstrual complications (whatever it means), future need of long-term progesterone treatment and future possibilities of cancer. But judging from what he had written in 2003, Dr. Diekema knew that hysterectomy is not anything so insignificant as you could just go ahead and do as “prophylactic” treatment for hormone therapy.
2. Why did they buy the rationale given by the parents’ lawyer that it was not sterilization?
The mention of the 2003 paper in the 2006 growth attenuation paper shows that Dr. Diekema regarded Ashley’s hysterectomy as involuntary sterilization. With that perception, why did he buy it when the lawyer hired by the parents presented a dubious rationale that they didn’t need a court order despite the state law requiring one because their objective was not sterilization?