Friday, July 20, 2007

“Benevolent” child abuse

A story in today’s New York Times describes a major elbow surgery that parents are paying to have done to their children, solely in order to “improve” their pitching arms. Why is this even legal?

modified from original; color diagram modified from Human Anatomy, by Martini, Timmons, and Tallitsch (5th Ed.), 2006

The phrase “benevolent child abuse” was used in the article, an oxymoron if ever there was one, and I would strongly challenge its supposed benevolence. The pain and trauma and risks involved, and the unknown sequelae to be dealt with later in life should be enough to rule it out, but there are those for whom the lure of possible stardom by proxie is so intoxicating that they would happily subject their own children to pain and risk and trauma—what else could this be but child abuse?
“Although it is highly successful, the surgery may require two years for recovery. Infection, fractures, nerve irritation and numbness are possible. About 20 percent of pitchers do not return… Even when the risks are explained, and parents are told that many young pitchers eventually lose interest in the sport, Dr. Andrews said, ‘It doesn’t seem to faze them.’ ”
The child is not mature enough to make such a choice, and by what justification should the parent be able to order surgical (or chemo- or genetic-) “enhancements” to a child simply to suit their own dreams and desires? Do they have any comprehension of more likely failure of other parts (read: rotator cuff) when additional strength is “engineered” into vulnerable constituents of a system?

It is into this climate that the whole issue of genetic “enhancement” arrives. I find it all so disheartening from the individual autonomy perspective. There are cultures in which a parent retains sole authority over their child’s life in perpetuity, in matters of marriage choices and occupation and dress and freedom of movement and household location and personal relationships and basically every aspect of their daily life, for their entire lives—is this what we are moving toward in America? Do parents own their children? Have we really forgotten what freedom means? Isn’t the autonomy of one’s body pretty much the most fundamental sort of autonomy we have?

Very, very distressing.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

From a parental point of view - managed care. Just why are so many parents footing the bill for teenage breast augmentation. Parents are living through their kids - a 15 year old with B cup transformed into a D cup while in junior high school? Parents see the success of the Lohans, Spears and Hiltons and want the best for their kids. Yah!

7:44 PM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

Thanks for your comment, anonymous.

Yes, this is all part of the syndrome of parents who think they are entitled to live through their kids, something that should be understood to be a form of child abuse. No one has the right to anyone else's life. Parents do not own their children, but should see their roles as caretakers until the child is mature enough to caretake his/her own self.

Any decisions that result in permanent changes that a child might regret at age 20 (or 40, or 60) should be undertaken with the greatest of care and deliberation, and only when absolutely necessary. An "improved" pitching arm, or big breasts, or even laser-corrected nearsightedness are not necessities, and should be postponed at least until the child reaches the legal age of consent.

PS: What parent in their right mind would see Hilton, Spears, or Lohan as a "success"? I would be profoundly ashamed to have raised a daughter to reach that level of superficiality and crassness.

9:51 PM  

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