Monday, 8 October 2007

I lose my temper on another blog...

Apologies for the length of this post - but I feel I need to keep this for posterity.
Setting : Damian Thompson's Holy Smoke blog
His message thread header :

The news that doctors are planning to give a 15 year-old disabled girl a hysterectomy to stop her menstruating fills me with horror.
Katie Thorpe and her mother Alison
The girl, Katie Thorpe, is severely afflicted with cerebral palsy; her mother, Alison, wants to spare her the indignity of experiencing periods. She has persuaded a consultant gynaecologist, Phil Robarts, to remove the girl’s womb. He is seeking legal clearance to go ahead.

This is the point at which I should say how difficult it must be for the mother, that I understand that this decision has not been taken lightly, etc. I’m not going to. What Mrs Thorpe is proposing is appalling.

In a civilised society, we do not subject disabled people to serious operations without their consent except for the most pressing clinical reasons. This would be the first unnecessary hysterectomy ever carried out in Britain – though not, I suspect, the last.

This line must not be crossed. The law must protect Katie Thorpe

A few responses on various sides ensued.
later it gets to two postings :

From Hercules :

Reaper and Mrs SLB: you say, leave it to the parents, they have to look after the child. Certainly, I would defend parental rights here and everywhere.But on what basis do they make their decisions? By ignoring the rights of the child? By violating morality? No- moral judgements aren't something which get in the way of doing the best thing - they are essential to deciding what the 'best' thing is. So stop telling us moral judgements are inappropriate. The girl has rights, the parents have obligations, and bystanders have obligations too, including to intervene if necessary.These parents are proposing to mutilate their child. A solution to a practical problem, but a bad solution. Some things we can't do, however handy it would be.

Then this from Reaper :


We have been there and done that! Our child is epileptic - the seizures are rare but life threatening. We have stood, helpless, in the hospital on two occasions that she has stopped breathing during them. Some years ago she was prescribed medication which held out a hope of preventing those seizures. The side-effects made her life and ours a veritable hell for her behaviour deteriorated to the point where we actively considered taking her off the medication and facing the risk of losing her that the seizures presented. Quality of life counts here just as much if not more than its very existence. Is it not better to let the child live a happy life rather than subject her to suffering that can be avoided?

We got tremendous support from our medics at that time - people who understood it was not a simple situation that could be met with pre-determined morality. Fortunately, in complementary therapy, we got a solution that restored the child we knew (and her happiness) to us and allowed use of the medication that has been very succesful in averting the seizures.

I back the Thorpes because they are best placed to make the decision as to what to do to best serve their daughter's interests. I see the picture at the top of this blog and see the total trust that child has in her mum. I say we should honour that trust.

My morality is simple - I will do what best serves my daughter's interests i.e. making her happy and smiling every day of her life. I will do what gives her a life free of worry. pain or upset. If a problem that will cause her distress can be avoided then let us avoid it. It wil life easier for us as well but that's a bonus or maybe not ... we care for her and anything that makes our life easier makes hers better.

Mutilation does not enter into it. I would think that both the family and medics have analysed the situation thoroughly and arrived at the most viable solution which, though drastic and extraordinary, is designed to improve the child's life.

At this point I lost my rag and let rip :

Oh Reaper...
onthesideoftheangels 08 Oct 2007 20:45

[OK, Hold onto your hats dudes...]

I'm sorry for your situation; but charity compels me to prevent your sermonising contaminating or misleading others by its deceptive appeal to alleged compassion.

Your morality is far from simple; and although I feel that I'll have the roof cave in on me with accusations of cruel insensitivity at not sympathising with your situation ; or bowing to your deeper personal experience of the issues involved; or submitting to the presumption that as you have been there you become the prime arbiter of ethical acuity - I not only find your morality distasteful, I believe it to be downright abhorrent and terrifyingly dangerous; with a potential for intolerable cruelty and intrinsic objective moral disorder.
Not a question of pre-determined morality ?
In other words you mean it's a question of pragmatism and situationism where a single objective is the sole proviso and to hell with any other moral objectivity - let heaven and earth fall but your will must be done at whatever price and to hell with the means and the consequences - I'm sorry , but however benign or well-intended your sights are set, if you cast aside what you dismiss as pre-determined morality the price will invariably be too high for someone....

You seem to have a somewhat distorted perception of what constitutes the 'quality of life' - it's a tyrannical mendacity that frankly verges upon objective evil. It's poisoned with barbaric utilitarian sentiments which care nothing for the individual and their rights and unique worth in no matter what circumstances they find themselves.
Millions are murdered every year to ensure a greater utility within the 'quality of life' of the collective - hundreds of thousands of the elderly or severely ill are murdered as their 'quality of life' is determined by others as 'unacceptable' - it's abhorrent ; it's satanic - it's the most irrational and inhuman of all contemporary 'ethical innovations' - destroying life to improve its quality !!???
To quote Greg House "Nobody dies with dignity";
You wish your child to live a life without worry , pain or unnecessary upset or distress ?
What parent doesn't ?
But when one impinges upon a child's liberty and dignity and unique worth in order to enforce a false reality ; one does not make their life one worth living ; for it removes the life from it ! It's redolent of Buddha's parents walling him off from reality - imprisoning him in delusion and precluding from him the chance of life; with all its heartbreaks, losses, pains, anxieties and bitter anguishes.

You back the Thorpes ? You look into the mother's eyes and trust that her motives are pure and unselfish and not tainted with the prospects of an easier life - that her sole intent is altruistically for the benefit of her daughter ? That this recourse to having a hysterectomy is by no means in any way an excuse to abrogate a deeper responsibility and duty of care to her child ?
I've known parents kill their kids and then themselves rather than splitting up the family or having the kids suffer in care away from their parent's do you feel about that ? I'm sure their motives were filled with an overpowering love; but it doesn't make their actions anything other than so terribly wrong....

I'm sorry but I find your grounds for discernment [i.e. she looks and sounds like a devoted parent - I've read into the story and it's obvious that she cares for Katie etc ] are far from substantive. To suggest that they verge on the incredulous may be cruel; but I believe it to be apposite - Al Capone loved his mother, Hitler was great fun with kids, Harold shipman had that santa claus twinkle in his eye, The Wests were constantly having offspring they must have assuredly loved kids !
I'm not questioning Alison Thorpe's character whatsoever ; but her having a loving demeanour and a record of long-term devotion mean absolutely nothing when it comes to the objective morality of what she wants to happen to her daughter...

You say mutilation does not enter into it - that's baloney - it is mutilation - but is it towards a beneficial end - extracting a rotting tooth mutilates for a greater good - mutilating one's body to have a facelift like Donatella Versace's ? A completely different story. Self mutilation by getting pregnant and then taking a morning after pill after the hormones have benefitted the skin ? Well that's pure evil
...being able to walk again because you've been injected with the stem cells of a hundred murdered foetuses - before you object may I remind you that you are on record as saying that:

My morality is simple - I will do what best serves my daughter's interests i.e. making her happy and smiling every day of her life. I will do what gives her a life free of worry. pain or upset. If a problem that will cause her distress can be avoided then let us avoid it. It wil[l make] life easier for us as well but that's a bonus or maybe not ... we care for her and anything that makes our life easier makes hers better.

To sum up : I'm afraid what you designate as 'quality of life' is in reality something far from it - what you dismiss as 'existing' is in actuality real 'living' with all its adversities and struggles and tears and laughter. I used to visit a long-term care hospital for the severely mentally and physically handicapped - [now we're talking of a vast array of disabilities - maybe limbless blind kids with sometimes only half a head ; living a life in a kind of shadow; with many years of operations ahead of them, some in constant pain or frustration - but in the middle of all this you will never find more humanity, more love, more living of life from these kids more beautiful beyond imagining than anyone I have ever encountered before or since - I was in the presence of angels !
Now ?
The hospital is defunct: closed down as it no longer serves a purpose : Kids like these no longer get out of the womb alive - they are all wiped out in that great secular ethic which determines 'the quality of life' - these terminated kids might have had a rough time of it - with distressing, painful periods through a lot of it - therefore it has been decreed by the great ethical god of contemporary 'good taste and decency' that these kids be denied life rather than living it.

So when you speak of 'quality of life' I am not deceived by it or twisted into a false sentimentality that will be convinced by the great lie you propound .

This 'quality of life' argument kills !
and for that I weep and I hate it; and I have to restrain myself from wanting to slap the face of anyone who espouses it. It is evil beyond imagining.....

So I ask you to please desist from this childish irrationality - if you wished to be selfish regarding your child; the law lets you - if Mrs Thorpe wants an easier life and it leads to half her daughter's insides out so that she doesn't have a few days of dirty hands and extra laundry - the law will let her - whether her sentiments or motives are pure is between her and her conscience - the objective morality involved is what we are supposed to be discussing here - should a severely mentally handicapped girl be forced to undergo an invasive operation without any consideration of her [impossible to determine] will because the parent wants it ?
People still die from complications/infections after hysterectomies ? I'm afraid the argument of the potentials of toxic shock from menstruation [especially in a person mentally incapable of using tampons herself] don't hold water - because that would be a particular sanitary choice.

The answer is simple : because my morality is very simple - invariably it's only the situation which is complex; when the morality gets complex that's when compromise , pragmatism, relativism, situationism - and what we call sin - become involved.

The operation holds a risk to her life [however remote it is still a potential consequence] the operation is utterly unnecessary - and technically artificially destroying a natural menstrual cycle in one so young is dangerous to any woman's long term health [there are many endocrinological research documents which corroborate this]
so the response has to be one which backs up Damian's original premise and conclusion to the hilt. It's a violation of Katie Thorpe; and objectively morally disordered.

[Any feedback would be greatly appreciated - was I too harsh ? Or too clinically morally smug and superior ?]


On the side of the angels said...

It must have really annoyed someone because it's been removed from the site...

Rita said...

I think yours is a measured response, but then I'm not known for my tact or diplomacy.

The utilitarian philosophy of the person you were responding to is particularly odious. I saw an article recently, I think in the New Oxford Review, that said there was a real link between utility and nihilism. I think the article was right. The views you responded to views must be responded to by anyone claiming to uphold the Catholic faith. Only, I'm no judge of how to do it politely!

gemoftheocean said...

Right on. Take a bow.

[No, you weren't too harsh at all...if this woman had had a son, would she have wanted to chop his testicles off so the family wouldn't have to deal with nocturnal emissions?]

WhiteStoneNameSeeker said...

No you were not harsh. But I will be here if you don;t mind.
Frankly the mother of this girl sickens me. She is prepared to put her daughter through major surgery to mutilate her body just so she doesn't have to clean up blood once a month.
Well I've had to clean up very sick ladies during their period-it's not pleasant, but it isn't terrible and so long as it done while maintaining the dignity and respect for the person it isn't distressing for someone so sick either.
I have nursed very disabled people (in a hospice) and it has never been an issue for the parents that their daughters are having a period. It's part of her life.

Perhaps the mother needs to think about her own fears that her little girl is becoming a woman.
I have a friend whose daughter has serious CP and I would be surprised if she ever married (though if God wills it she could meet the right man)- but she is a young woman and that's that.

I have been told bluntly by TWO doctors to get sterilised because as a disabled woman I should not be having children. Having babies in no way effects my disability-which as obs reg's they knew NOTHING about- but hey, crips shouldn't breed!

Ripping out this poor girl's womb could very seriously effect her health in hormonal imbalance regardless of whether the ovaries are left in place.
But that seems less important than saving the mum from changing a sanitory towel.

Sorry for the rant-but sometimes I get scared.

bernadette said...

not harsh, just too blinking long.