The Plight of the “Pillow Angel”

In A Sedentary View, Columns, Features by Gregory Banks

You’re a parent of a newborn child, a precious angel who is a gift from God. You have prayed and yearned for this child for months, maybe years, and your love for this child is without bounds long before you get to meet your little bundle of joy for the very first time.

But then you are told that your perfect little child, who turns out to be a daughter, is not so perfect after all. Doctors reluctantly inform you that she is brain damaged, that your little girl will always be a little girl in mind and spirit.

The dreams that you had for her life, watching her learn and grow and become a beautiful and smart young woman with a career and family and a future filled with limitless possibilities is shattered like porcelain.

As reality sinks in and you begin to accept the reality, you resign yourself to the care and loving of your daughter despite her disabilities, and you will do whatever it takes to make her quality of life the best it can possibly be.

So what do you do to best accomplish this goal?

First, you decide that as the child grows physically, she will become more difficult to handle. So, to improve her life, you have doctors administer high doses of estrogen to decrease her perspective height by 13 inches. Because, of course, this will make things much easier for “her”.

Next, you fear that your daughter may be subject to rape as she matures, and to protect her from this possibility, you have doctors remove her uterus. In addition, while you’re at it, you have her breast tissue removed because of a family history of cancer and fibrocystic disease.

As an added benefit, without cumbersome breasts to get in the way, the straps that will be used to hold her in place will be far more comfortable. “Besides,” you say, “she has no need for developed breasts since she will not breast feed.”

In my own mind this rings disgustingly of “Frankenstein science,” a willful attempt to play the role of a domineering God who manipulates rather than nurtures, who dominates rather than leads.

The very thought of such a fictional tale, of which I’ve read and maybe even written similar tales in the past, causes my stomach to churn at the very possibility of it becoming true one day. What’s even more terrifying is that the story I just related above is true.

When I hear or read discussion about Ashley, who is now 9 years old, she sounds as if she is some sort of science experiment or inanimate object more than a living, breathing human being.

In deciding whether or not to proceed with these treatments, the ethics committee of Seattle Children’s Hospital did a “cost-benefit analysis” to determine that the overall benefits of such treatments outweighed the potential risks.

The very fact that “benefits” were determined through an analysis based upon cost seems very telling, since this is the very same means by which all disadvantaged people, be it by race, economics, or physical condition, are judged and handled.

It is very easy to make such choices when a child is reduced to mere numbers on a page, but I wonder how easy such decisions would have been if Ashley’s face had been lying before them, or even better, if their own children’s faces had been pasted there?

Even as I sit here typing this I feel a knot in my stomach. Although Ashley is an extreme case, apparently she is neither the first, nor will she be the last, of these so-called “Pillow Angels,” a term in itself feels like sugar-coated way to refer to these victims of science gone wild.

What rights do the disabled have today, and where will such practices stop?

Consider this. Why does a paraplegic need his legs? They’re just useless appendages that must be dragged around. All they do is add cumbersome dead weight to a person’s body that’ll never need them anyway, so why not chop them off? A blind person doesn’t need eyes, so why not merely remove them and sew up the sockets?

Many will argue that these examples are crude and extreme and have nothing to do with the case at hand. But humanity has a long history of justifying acts of violence and discrimination merely because it was a generally accepted practice.

Slavery was not a practice carried out in an isolated community lead by a radical and insane human being. It was practiced and accepted by the common man.

I know this issue doesn’t share nearly the same scope as slavery, and on the surface it seems to impact only a handful of human beings. But it impacts HUMAN BEINGS nonetheless.

Isn’t it all right to carry out atrocious acts on a child because it makes it easier for those who must care for her?

One of the arguments for these actions is that she is unaware of what’s being done to her anyway. If it’s not all right to steal from a person merely because they cannot see you do it, or to mutilate a body merely because its dead, then how can it be justifiable to reconstruct a living “angel” of a girl based on the justification that she isn’t aware of what’s being done?

This practice sickens, disgusts, and angers me beyond words. But what’s even more frightening, far more people seem to see nothing wrong with it at all. When a disabled child can be so easily dehumanized for the convenience of others, I can’t help but wonder if someone like me will be next?

Or even better, maybe you should be asking the same question yourself.
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