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Last Updated: Sunday, 7 October 2007, 20:09 GMT 21:09 UK
Mother seeks girl's hysterectomy
Katie Thorpe and her mother Alison
Katie Thorpe's mother Alison wants her to avoid suffering
The mother of a severely disabled teenager has asked doctors to give her daughter a hysterectomy to stop her from starting menstruation.

Alison Thorpe, 45, from Essex, says 15-year-old Katie, who has cerebral palsy, would be confused by periods and they would cause her indignity.

Doctors are now seeking legal approval before carrying out the surgery.

The disabled charity Scope said the operation would set a "disturbing" precedent for other disabled girls.

If approved, it will be the first time in the UK a hysterectomy is carried out without it being medically needed.

Best possible life

Katie's mother said the operation would stop her daughter from going through unnecessary suffering.

The right and the wrong is her mothers choice, dont for one minute think her choice is easy because it wont be!
Rebecca Lodge, Castleford

Mrs Thorpe said: "All we are trying to do is keep and improve Katie's quality of life.

"By stopping menstruation it's allowing Katie to enjoy life to the full without the problems of menstruation...the mood swings, the tears, the stomach cramps, the pain, the discomfort, the embarrassment."

Mrs Thorpe said her daughter would not be able to ask for help or even let people know what she was feeling.

It's not about us, it's about Katie
Alison Thorpe

She said the decision had not been made lightly, but was something she had thought through for many years and finally decided upon when Katie turned 13.

According to the Sunday Times, Phil Robarts, a consultant gynaecologist at Mrs Thorpe's local hospital, supports her decision.

Mrs Thorpe said: "She's not going to get married and she's not going to have children...Katie is not going to become a normal adult.

"I absolutely understand that it's not for everyone, and I'm not saying it should be either.

"I'm not advocating this should be a blanket policy for all disabled children, absolute horror at that."

But she said she was "utterly" convinced it was the right decision for her daughter.

"It's not about us, it's about Katie," she said.

'Disturbing' consequences

The disabled charity Scope reacted with alarm to the news, which echoes the case of Ashley X, a nine-year-old American girl with the mental age of a three-month-old baby.

The charity's executive director, Andy Rickell, said the operation could have "disturbing" implications for other disabled children, and may not even be in the best interests of Katie.

We want to see a clear framework put in place for dealing with ethical decisions of this complexity
Andy Rickell, Scope

He said he acknowledged that Katie and her mother faced a difficult and sensitive situation, and that he recognised the challenges faced by families with disabled children.

But he said there were deep ethical problems with carrying out unnecessary surgery on people who are unable to give consent.

He said: "It is very difficult to see how this kind of invasive surgery, which is not medically necessary and which will be very painful and traumatic, can be in Katie's best interests.

"This case raises fundamental ethical issues about the way our society treats disabled people and the respect we have for disabled people's human and reproductive rights.

"Scope is concerned that doctors are supporting parents in this case. If this enforced sterilisation is approved it will have disturbing implications for young disabled girls across Britain."

'Totally unacceptable'

He said that it was for society to adapt to the needs of disabled people, not the other way round.

Mr Rickell said the government should do more to help people who care for severely disabled people, and to put in place extra legal safeguards to protect the rights of disabled people themselves.

He said: "We want to see a clear framework put in place for dealing with ethical decisions of this complexity, which places the rights, and best interests, of disabled children at the heart of any decision."

Simone Aspis, of the UK's Disabled People's Council, said the case was about Katie's human rights.

She said: "It is very clear to us that no operation should be undertaken if there is absolutely no clinical benefit to the person concerned.

"The operation should not be carried out under these circumstances. We are very aware there are other methods of medical intervention that can be done to help control Katie's pain.

"There's lots of non-disabled women who also experience discomfort in their periods.

"Doctors wouldn't even anticipate in recommending to a parent that their child should have their womb removed. Why should it be the case for this person simply because she is disabled?

"As far as we're concerned that is totally and utterly unacceptable."

Katie's mother explains why she supports the surgery

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