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Debate in US: Who Should Decide for Disabled People?

risks of cancers or appendicitis, were entirely speculative, critics argue.

In his new book, Medical Apartheid, medical ethicist Harriet Washington sees sexist, even racist prejudice in the approach of those who laud Ashley’s parents. “It is harder to imagine doctors so compliantly agreeing to castrate a boy, say, in order to allow his wheelchair seat-belt to fit better. Similarly, I wonder if a poor black child would have been so easily romanticized as a "pillow angel."

Though the US is supposed to be the wealthiest nation on earth, Ashley’s parents could not be provided simple medical devices like a simple hoist or mattresses that prevent bedsores. Or the assistance of home healthcare workers. Such things could have precluded such painful invasion of the body, regrets Patricia Williams.

Perhaps Ashley’s parents feared what would happen to her after them. Perhaps she would have to be institutionalized, whereas such homes are awfully managed. Even military hospitals are no exception, it has turned out.

Activists are hence calling for radical changes in the country’s medical care instead of highly arbitrary surgeries on helpless individuals.

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