January 27, 2007

Certain minds and certain bodies

I'm the kind of person who learns by doing. This blog is largely a place for me to think out loud as I figure things out and formulate my arguments and opinions. It's not uncommon for me to change my mind about some things, or to be persuaded by someone else's arguments.

I also learn from my mistakes. I don't like having to learn that way, of course -- who does? But the Buddhist in me often welcomes these types of negative experiences; I know full well that I'll find something of value and grow from the experience.

Which brings me to the topic of this post, which has to do with one of the arguments I made in defense of the Ashley Treatment. In my article, Helping Families Care for the Helpless, I stated,
"...the treatments will endow her with a body that more closely matches her cognitive state – both in terms of her physical size and bodily functioning. The estrogen treatment is not what is grotesque here. Rather, it is the prospect of having a full-grown and fertile woman endowed with the mind of a baby."
This quote was strewn across the media soon after the Ashley X story broke. While it made for a provocative sound bite, I have since changed my mind about this particular argument.

Now, that said, I want to reiterate that I am still absolutely in support of the Ashley Treatment; what I am retracting here is this specific line of reasoning.

It is inaccurate to suggest that certain minds go with certain bodies. As a proponent of neurodiversity and morphological freedoms, I am in favour of the notion that different minds can be mixed and matched with different bodies. Moreover, it is arbitrary and inappropriate to suggest that that a particular psychological state 'belongs' with a particular morphology. Thus, the suggestion that Ashley's body should be modified such that it better 'matches' her cognitive state (which is that of a 3-month old) is unjustified.

Other arguments in support of the Ashley Treatment, such as increased levels of comfort, safety and health, are clearly more relevant to the issue, as are such factors as personhood considerations and caregivers' rights.

Thanks go out to Anne Corwin and James Hughes for engaging me in this discussion.


The Rob said...

Hmmm...but wouldn't morphological freedom imply the ability to make a choice? In this case, morphological freedom is bestowed into the hands of the people who can make a choice for this individual, and done with the understanding that at no point in the future will this person reasonably feel limited by that choice having been made.

I didn't particularly feel that you were saying that this particular mind NEEDED this particular form, only that it was chosen to best suit the conditions that the child and parents found themselves in (though, perhaps you did, which may be all that counts here).

George said...

Yes, this issue only tangentially relates to issues of morphological freedom and neurodiversity. I mention it because it applies by extension.

In regards to Ashley, if the rationale behind her treatments were driven by an aesthetic sense of which mind belongs with which body, then it was a misguided decision. Thankfully, I don't think this was entirely the case.

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