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Last Updated: Monday, 8 October 2007, 13:14 GMT 14:14 UK
Sympathy for an agonising decision
Sandy Collington
Sandy Collington cares for her 35-year-old daughter

Disability rights campaigners have criticised the decision by the mother of a severely disabled teenager to ask doctors to give her daughter a hysterectomy.

Alison Thorpe says she wants to save daughter Katie, who has cerebral palsy, from the "pain and indignity" menstruation would cause the 15-year-old.

But how does it feel to be a parent in such a position?

When Sandy Collington heard about the controversy over Mrs Thorpe's request, she felt a degree of recognition with her situation.

She does not agree with the move, but Sandy, 61, is also devoted to caring for a daughter with cerebral palsy.

And she knows that the onset of adolescence adds a whole new dimension to the challenges faced by those in similar situations.

"I sympathise with Alison," Sandy says. "If you care about your child, you will go to the ends of the earth to help them.

I just wonder whether we are going into the realms of the unknown and playing God
Sandy Collington

"But I can't say that I agree with her. I just couldn't do the same for my daughter."

At their home in Helston, Cornwall, Sandy provides round-the-clock care for daughter Rachel, 35, who also has severe learning difficulties, is blind, epileptic and suffers from hydrocephalus.

The case of Mrs Thorpe, who is from Essex, brought back memories of caring for Rachel two decades ago.

"Of course it's upsetting for parents to see their children in any sort of discomfort," acknowledges Sandy, who is also a vice-chairwoman of the charity Scope.

"We hurt more than they do. Every woman - and men who have lived alongside them - will know what sort of pains can be caused after the onset of puberty, and we want to protect daughters who already have a lot to endure.

Katie Thorpe and her mother Alison
Katie Thorpe's mother Alison wants her to avoid suffering

"But I believe there are remedies out there."

What the parents of disabled children really need, Sandy says, is more support from the government - especially with respite care.

Caring for someone with physical disabilities can be, she says, an arduous process.

"When it's raining and you're trying to unload your child into a car, it brings it home how difficult a job you've got," she admits.

"But you always have to remember that their human rights are paramount.

"I just wonder whether we are going into the realms of the unknown and playing God. Who knows what sort of negative impact a hysterectomy could have on a 15-year-old? Would it really be worth it?"

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