Ashley, a 9-year-old girl in Washington state, will never grow up. She has no breast buds or milk glands. She has no uterus. She will not grow taller than 4-1/2 feet. What is startling about her plight is that Ashley was made this way by doctors at Childrenâ€™s Hospital in Seattle.
Following a request from her parents, doctors there surgically removed her uterus and newly-forming breasts and began treating her with high doses of estrogen to ensure that Ashley would forever remain a child. Why would Ashleyâ€™s parents and doctors decide to have their daughter, like Peter Pan, never grow up? And why would doctors agree to use their surgical skills and drugs to stunt a childâ€™s normal development?
Ashleyâ€™s doctors wrote an article answering those questions last fall. They noted that Ashley, whose last name has not been made public, is far from normal. She has a rare brain condition known as static encephalopathy. She cannot walk, talk, move or swallow food. It is not clear whether her damaged brain can recognize her parents or her siblings. The doctors said that Ashleyâ€™s parents came to them deeply concerned about how they would be able to manage their daughter as she grew older, bigger and heavier. The solution they seized upon, unprecedented in the history of medicine, was to use hormones and surgery to keep Ashley forever a child.
If she remains small then her parents can move her easily from place to place.Â By remaining small she can interact more with the rest of the family who can take her around the home and to outside events. She wonâ€™t have to deal with monthly periods. She may have a lower risk of getting raped and pregnant. She will not have breasts that might make it uncomfortable for her to lie in one place for long periods of time.