Update: The Ashley Treatment

I first talked about The Ashley Treatment back on January 5, 2007. Please check out that post for all the background details. The case took an interesting turn Tuesday. According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the hospital was required to obtain a court order before performing surgery on Ashley.

According to a report released Tuesday by a non-profit advocacy group, Ashley's constitutional and common-law rights were violated when she underwent a hysterectomy as part of her treatment. Washington law requires a court order before sterilizing a developmentally disabled child.

The decision for treatment went before the hospital's board of ethics, which agreed with the decision, but recommended it be reviewed in court.

But an attorney told Ashley's parents in a letter they didn't need a court order for the hysterectomy, said Deborah Dorfman, director of legal advocacy for the Washington Protection and Advocacy System, which conducted the investigation.

Ah ha! I knew there would be some kind of legal angle to this story eventually. So, let me get this straight, after the parents of a child come to a treatment decision with their doctor or doctors, they must ask the state if it's ok? Ridiculous!

The hospital is now in a pretty political pickle now, and in the situation of reparing their damaged credibility, and appeasing their critics.

Children's has agreed to appoint a disability rights advocate to its ethics committee and bring in experts as needed to make decisions about medical care for people with disabilities. It will require a court order for growth-stunting procedures, when it involves a child with a developmental disability. The hospital will also give the Washington Protection and Advocacy System notice of any sterilization or other growth-limiting procedures on persons with disabilities so it can act as a watchdog.

Dorfman said the group won't seek legal action against the hospital, but the Washington Department of Health, which is in charge of licensing hospitals and physicians, is planning to investigate further to see what actions, if any, may be taken against the hospital or physicians, said Steven Saxe, director of facilities and services licensing for the department.

Even if this group won't take legal action, I predict that the political hacks out there across the country will be sharpening their knives and getting ready to dive into this case for political points. According to political calculations, it's still ok to go after doctors and hospitals.

Now, I want to clarify, I'm not defending this hospital. Especially from a legal sense, hospitals have the responsibility to make sure that all the details have been taken care of. Someone on the inside dropped the ball, and they should be given the necessary consequences.

However, from a media standpoint, this story will be energized (I can see this now with the hits on my site), and the hype will begin again for this family - That's the real tragedy here...