Your quick, once-a-day look at disability rights, self-determination
and the movement toward full community inclusion around the world.

Thursday, November 6, 2003
Year IV, Edition 172

This front page features 8 news and information items, each preceded by a number (#) symbol.
Click on the"Below the Fold" link at the bottom of this page for 29 more news items.

"The reporting on the fierce battle for the life of 39-year-old Terri Schiavo has been the worst case of this kind of journalistic malpractice I've seen."

--Nat Hentoff of the Village Voice (First story)

"The problem with this case is that it is framed as a 'right-to-die' case rather than what it is: the right of the disabled to live."
--Brad Roberts, writing about the Terri Schiavo case in a letter to the editor of the Minnesota Star Tribune (First story)



Disability Perspective On Schiavo Case Gets Some Media Recognition

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 6, 2003

TAMPA, FLORIDA--Attorneys with the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) have asked a Florida court to reconsider its Tuesday decision to keep the parents of Terri Schiavo out of a legal challenge to the law that is keeping their daughter alive.

Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ, asked Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge W. Douglas Baird on Thursday to rehear a request to allow Bob and Mary Schindler to be a part of the lawsuit their son-in-law and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have filed against Governor Jeb Bush.

"The court should permit the Schindlers to be directly involved in this case," said Sekulow. "It is the life of their daughter that is at stake in these proceedings."

Sekulow has also filed an amicus ("friend of the court") brief on behalf of Terri's parents, supporting "Terri's Law", which was passed by the legislature and signed by the governor on October 21. The law specifically allowed Bush to have Terri's feeding tube reinserted six days after it had been removed under a court order.

Terri's husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo, along with the ACLU, want the law thrown out on the basis that it violates Florida's constitution by allowing lawmakers to over-ride court decisions. Bush's attorneys have asked that Schiavo's challenge be thrown out on the basis that it was filed in the wrong county and that the governor was not properly notified of the suit.

Since the Schiavo case hit the popular media last month, reporters and editorial boards have continued to ignore the perspective of disability groups that identify with Terri's situation and advocate for her right to continue living. Last month a group of 20 disability advocacy and other groups released a statement explaining that Terri's case is about the rights of people with disabilities to live their own lives, in spite of popular attitude that people with certain disabilities are "better off dead".

"The problem with this case is that it is framed as a 'right-to-die' case rather than what it is: the right of the disabled to live," wrote Brad Richards in a letter to the Star Tribune. "I have a 20-year old sister who has severe cerebral palsy. She cannot walk, or talk, or sit up on her own. In many ways, she resembles Terri Schiavo. Doctors don't call it a 'persistent vegetative state' (because there is no incentive in my sister's case to do so), but it has much the same effect."

Nat Hentoff of the Village Voice wrote Thursday, "Except for the op-ed page article by Stephen Drake of the Not Dead Yet organization in the October 29 Los Angeles Times ('Disabled Are Fearful: Who Will Be Next?') and a letter in the October 24 New York Times, I have seen hardly any mention in the press of the deeply concerned voices of the disabled, many of whom, in their own lives, have survived being terminated by bioethicists and other physicians who strongly believe that certain lives are not worth living. The numbers of these 'new priesthoods of death,' as I call them, are increasing."

"Ignoring the facts of the case, the American Civil Liberties Union -- to my disgust, but not my surprise in view of the long-term distrust of the ACLU by disability rights activists -- has marched to support the husband despite his grave conflicts of interests in this life-or-death case," Hentoff continued. "The ACLU claims the governor and the legislature of Florida unconstitutionally overruled the courts, which continued to declare the husband the lawful guardian. On the other hand, the ACLU cheered when Governor George Ryan of Illinois substituted his judgment for that of the courts by removing many prisoners from death row."

Terri collapsed on February 25, 1990 and her brain was without oxygen for several minutes. Since then, she has been breathing on her own and regulating her own blood pressure, but has been given nourishment and water through a gastronomy tube installed in her stomach.

Several doctors have said that Terri, now 39, is in a "persistent vegetative state", in which she can feel nothing and from which she cannot recover. Since February 2000, Florida courts have agreed with Mr. Schiavo's request to have Terri's feeding tube removed, based on his assertion that she told him before her collapse that she would not have wanted to live "by artificial means".

Terri's parents have produced affidavits from number of medical professionals who claim that she is alert, responsive and that she might improve with rehabilitative therapies -- which Mr. Schiavo has refused to allow for at least the last 10 years. They have fought Mr. Schiavo in the courts to keep their daughter alive, and have petitioned to have him removed as her guardian. The Schindlers accuse their son-in-law of abusing and neglecting his wife and bringing about her initial collapse. They also claim that he has abandoned his role as Terri's husband by living for the past five years with another woman, whom he calls his fiancée and with whom he has fathered two children.

Disability rights groups have been watching Terri's case closely for the past several years. Her death by starvation would reinforce the idea that the lives of people with certain disabilities are not worth living.

"A Woman's Life Versus an Inept Press" by Nat Hentoff (Village Voice)
"Schiavo is really about right to live" by Brad Roberts (Star Tribune) May require free registration
"Whose life is it, anyway?" (The Economist)
IDE Archives "Terri Schiavo's Right To Live"
"Issues Surrounding Terri Schindler-Schiavo Are Disability Rights Issues, Say National Disability Organizations"
Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation



Town Pitches In To Help Family

November 6, 2003

CONSHOHOCKEN, PENNSYLVANIA--I admit it, I'm a sucker for a story with a happy ending. Here's a good one:

A few weeks ago, Sue and Jay Viola's van was stolen in broad daylight.

It was bad enough that the van was taken, but the van had in it a specially-designed stroller for their 6-year-old son, Gregory, who has cerebral palsy. Sue's purse, with Gregory's Social Security card and other important papers, was also stolen.

When police found the van last week, the engine and steering column had been destroyed.

Since then, this small town has pulled together to help the Viola family, from paying for towing fees to getting a rental car for them to use until their van is repaired -- at no cost to them, of course.

"The people in this town have been so good to us," Sue Viola told the Conshy Recorder.

Related article:
"It seems everyone wants to help family who had their van stolen" (Conshy Recorder)



"Paws With A Cause: Dogs helping their owners"

November 6, 2003

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS--The following four paragraphs are excerpts from a story that ran Thursday on Chicago's WLS-TV:

There are many with disabilities who benefit from assistance dogs. One of them is Dr. Christine Branson, a physician at Lakeside VA Hospital. Her best friend is data.

"He pulls the wheelchair, he opens heavy doors, he picks things up, retrieves things," said Dr. Branson.

Without data, Dr. Branson would not have the freedom she enjoys.

"You know I can always have someone push me in the wheelchair but I don't you know it, he just so much more than that."

Related article with links to video clip:
"Paws With A Cause: Dogs helping their owners" (WLS
Paws With A Cause



What The H*** Was The Dr. Phil Show Thinkin'?

November 6, 2003

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA--Anyone familiar with the Dr. Phil Show has heard the popular TV psychologist ask his guests, "What the hell were you thinkin'?"

Well, I wonder what the staff of his show were thinkin' when they set up a "special" section for audience members that have physical disabilities.

Angela Gagerro and some friends recently joined the studio audience at the taping of a Dr. Phil Show.

The experience turned into a nightmare as ushers forced one friend to sit away from the others, simply because of his disability.

"Is the Dr. Phil Show complying with the law?" Gagerro asked in a piece for the Ragged Edge. "They 'bent over backward' to ensure that the disabled had seating."

"It's an entirely different spin for us on discrimination: 'Get over in your special section where you belong, you disabled person!'"

Related article:
"My Dr. Phil Nightmare -- 'Special' segregation at the Dr. Phil Show" (Ragged Edge Magazine)



Routine Drugging Of Nursing Home Resident To Be Examined

November 6, 2003

TORONTO, ONTARIO--In her most recent column for the Toronto Star, Helen Henderson highlighted the issue of how nursing home residents are being improperly over-medicated.

Last week, Henderson wrote about a group of Ontario lawyers who claimed that nursing homes and hospitals routinely use behavior-altering drugs to control senior patients without getting the proper consents.

After her article ran, Henderson received letters from readers across Canada, telling her personal stories of family members who had been given anti-psychotic and other drugs at long-term care facilities -- many without getting legal permission.

The case of a Durham man who was given Risperdal, a type of drug used to treat schizophrenia, to "subdue" him, may be investigated by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, Henderson wrote.

Related articles:
"Drugging of nursing home resident may be investigated" (Toronto Star)
"Seniors often drugged illegally, lawyers say" (Toronto Star)



The State Vocational Rehabilitation Services Program -- Fact Sheet


# EXPRESS EXTRA!!! From the Inclusion Daily Express Archives -- Two years ago:


Students Flex Collective Muscle For Changes

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 6, 2001

NAIROBI, KENYA -- Over 120 of the 150 male students at Mombasa Secondary School for the Physically Handicapped made it clear on Monday that they had had enough abuse from the school's headmaster and neglect from school staff.

The students went on strike, refusing to wear their uniforms or attend their classes. Instead they marched together out of the school gate in protest, demanding changes in their treatment and removal of the headmaster.

The students claim the dormitories are unsanitary and that rain and cold weather are not kept out. They say that there is no doctor on the campus to treat the students in an emergency, that there is no bus for the students, and that equipment such as crutches are not being repaired -- even though the students pay extra for these services.

They also accused their headmaster of treating them poorly by ignoring them and using foul language while talking to them, especially when they have come to him with complaints.

"He calls us professional beggars and people who have no sense of direction; he abuses us and shouts at us every time," one student told the East African Standard.

The students returned to the campus after a meeting was arranged with the chairman of the Board of Governors and officials from the provincial director of education's office.


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