Whether Charley Hooper has any concept of the space she occupies in the world is an enigma. She is so disabled that her mother considers her "unabled." At 10, her brain is believed to function at the level of a newborn's. She cannot speak, cannot walk, cannot see anything beyond light and dark and perhaps the shadowy shape of a face held inches away. As her body grew, her parents feared her world would grow smaller. How would they lift her or get her out of the house? They saw for Charley a grim future of hoists and machinery, of isolation and loneliness, of days spent trapped in bed, staring up at a ceiling she couldn't see. So Jenn and Mark Hooper came up with a radical solution: They gave their daughter hormones to stop her growth. Then they had doctors remove her womb to spare her the pain of menstruation. Charley is now around 4-foot-3 and 53 pounds and will remain so for the rest of her life.
"We didn't do this to Charley, we did it for Charley," her mom has said, per TVNZ. Such treatment is known as the "Ashley Treatment," after a girl in Seattle who had it in 2006. (Read more details about that case via Time.) Today, more and more doctors have received requests for it. A recent survey of the Pediatric Endocrine Society, most of whose members are in the US, showed that 32 of 284 respondents have prescribed growth-stunting hormones to at least one disabled child. "As more people do it, it's less weird, it's less freaky," says a bioethicist who supports the practice. "There's comfort in numbers." Critics, however, say it's an affront to the rights of the person getting the treatment. "People are really entitled to grow and to become the people they were meant to be," says Margaret Nygren, CEO of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Click for more on the story. (Read more disability stories.)