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

Wednesday, June 16, 2004
Year V, Edition 956

Today's front section features 8 news and information items, each preceded by a number (#) symbol.
Click on the "Below the Fold" link at the bottom of this section for 40 more news items.

"The wheelchair does not mean who I am. I am at a party. I am dancing. Other guys are leaning against the wall, typically. Males my age do not dance. What kind of handicap is that?"

--Joel Brown, 15, who lives in Magna, Utah and is part of a dance duo with his brother (Fifth story)

"It is vitally important that the Government gets this Bill right."
--Richard Brook, the head of Britain's mental health advocacy group Mind, talking about a Mental Health Bill that advocates hope will pass during the current session of Parliament (Second story)



Florida Supreme Court To Take Terri Schiavo Case

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 16, 2004

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA--The Florida Supreme Court has set August 31 as the date it will hear arguments in an appeal over the law that has kept Terri Schiavo alive since last October.

The court agreed Wednesday to hear the case without having it go through the lower state Court of Appeal.

The case involves "Terri's Law", a measure the state legislature passed and Governor Jeb Bush signed a few days after Terri's feeding tube was removed under a court order on October 16. The law compelled doctors to reinsert the feeding tube so Terri could again receive food and water.

Michael Schiavo, Terri's husband and guardian, immediately sued the governor, claiming the law was unconstitutional because it violated his wife's right to privacy and gave the governor too much power to overrule Florida courts.

Last month, Pinellas Circuit Court Judge W. Douglas Baird agreed with Mr. Schiavo. Attorneys for the governor then appealed Baird's decision.

On June 2, the Florida 2nd Court of Appeal asked the Supreme Court to bypass the usual appeals process and rule directly on the governor's challenge.

Mr. Schiavo and several doctors have said that Terri, 40, has been in a "persistent vegetative state" since she collapsed and her brain was without oxygen for several minutes in February 1990. Terri breathes on her own, but requires food and water through the gastronomy tube installed through the wall of her stomach.

Schiavo has insisted for several years that his wife told him before the collapse that she would not have wanted to live "by artificial means". He first petitioned the courts to have her feeding tube pulled in 1998.

Terri's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, have fought to keep their daughter alive. They claim that she is alert and responds to them and her environment, and would benefit from therapies that Mr. Schiavo has denied her. They suspect that their son-in-law has abused and exploited Terri and may have caused her initial collapse. They believe he wants his wife to die so he can marry a woman with home he has fathered two children.

Also on Wednesday, an attorney for the Schindlers asked Circuit Court Judge George W. Greer to decide whether Mr. Schiavo has the right to act on his wife's behalf in the case against Bush. They claim that he has not provided proper care for Terri, and should be removed as her guardian.

Greer's decision is pending.

Disability rights advocates have campaigned for years to keep Terri alive. Her death by starvation would reinforce the message that the lives of people with certain disabilities are not worth living, they say. After Terri's feeding tube was removed last October, disability rights advocates joined right-to-life groups in flooding the offices of the governor and key lawmakers with tens of thousands of messages, asking for them to act on Terri's behalf. "Terri's Law" was passed through the Legislature in near-record time, giving Bush permission to order the feeding tube reinserted six days after it had been removed.

Jacob DiPietre, a spokesman for Governor Bush, said Wednesday, "We look forward to making our case to the Supreme Court about why the Legislature and the governor should partner with the courts in protecting our most vulnerable citizens."

"Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express)
Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation



Advocates Say Mental Health Bill May Be Too Little, Too Late

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 16, 2004

LONDON, ENGLAND--Officials with the Department of Health said this week that they are working with mental health advocates to rewrite a Mental Health Bill that critics had called too harsh.

But advocates say the government is moving too slowly to have the measure ready before this parliamentary session ends July 22.

An earlier draft, published in 2002, was withdrawn after advocates with the Mental Health Alliance, a coalition of mental health 60 organizations, protested parts of the bill that would have forced people with mental illnesses to go through treatment without their permission, and would have allowed people considered to have "dangerous" personality disorders to be locked up.

According to a brief item in Saturday's edition of The Independent, health officials are trying to compromise with the advocates by narrowing the number of groups of mental health patients who could be forced into treatment once they were released into the community. However, they have not yet removed the provision that would allow for those considered a "serious risk of harm" to be detained. One official said this only affected about one percent of all cases.

"We are not talking about giving men the power to kick down doors and inject people," The Independent quoted an unnamed official. "All we are doing is talking about making sure they take their treatment so that we don't have a revolving door, with patients leaving hospital only to have to come back in for treatment."

Health Secretary John Reid said he plans to introduce the Bill before the Queen's Speech in November.

Some advocates worry that the legislation may not be voted on for years.

Richard Brook, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, said: "It is vitally important that the Government gets this Bill right."

"Mental health bill future in doubt" (The Guardian),8150,1239427,00.html



Vance Pauses To Reflect On Attitudes

June 16, 2004

VERNON CENTER, MINNESOTA--Since last December, Inclusion Daily Express has shared with readers the weekly "Disabilities" column by free-lance writer Daniel J. Vance.

Vance has been writing his column for nearly two years. He says the column has been picked up by at least 115 newspapers, but explained to me recently that some newspapers run his column without telling him about it.

In that time, Vance has interviewed well-known athletes, actors, and policy makers that have disabilities, along with little-known advocates who work with quiet determination in their own communities. Last month, he even featured a column about Inclusion Daily Express.

This week, Vance, who has a daughter with spina bifida, decided to look at his own views of people with disabilities and how his perceptions have evolved during his lifetime.

"I haven't always been fond of people with disabilities," he admitted in this week's installment. "In fact, looking back, I'm ashamed now how I once viewed any person with a disability. Perhaps I was then a lot like the way you are now."

Entire column:
"Personal reflections" (Daniel J. Vance)
"Inclusion Daily Express" (Daniel J. Vance)



State Struggles With Death Row Mental Retardation Claims

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 16, 2004

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA--On June 21, 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Daryl Atkins v. Virginia that executing inmates that have mental retardation is "cruel and unusual punishment" and therefore banned by the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

"Because of their disabilities in areas of reasoning, judgment, and control of their impulses . . . they do not act with the level of moral culpability that characterizes the most serious adult criminal conduct," wrote Justice John Paul Stevens in that decision. "Moreover, their impairments can jeopardize the reliability and fairness of capital proceedings against mentally retarded defendants."

The high court did not tell the states what mental retardation means, however, nor how to measure it.

Since then, lawmakers in the states that use a death penalty have struggled with defining mental retardation so they can decide which death row inmates will die by execution and which will be allowed to live out their sentences behind bars.

They've found it's not easy.

Most legislatures have decided to use the same criteria on which their state social service agencies rely to determine if a person is eligible for services. The most common standard is that a person with an IQ of 70 or below has mental retardation, particularly if the IQ is measured before the person becomes an adult. Some include evaluations of the person's "functional ability" in a number of areas.

As could be expected, attorneys representing hundreds of death row inmates have filed what are being referred to "Atkins pleas". Also, as could be expected, there is no short supply of experts that can testify that a particular convict does or does not have mental retardation.

A story in Wednesday's San Jose Mercury News looked at how California is working through the process of deciding which of the state's 30 death row inmates who have filed claims of mental retardation will be spared.

Prosecutors are worried that some who have committed capital crimes will be allowed to live because they simply were "lazy" in school.

Defenders are concerned that the state's standards are not being applied fairly.

"'Retarded' label now ticket off death row" (Mercury News)
"Death by IQ? The Death Penalty and Mental Retardation In The USA" (Inclusion Daily Express)



Brothers' Dance Duo Features Wheels

June 16, 2004

MAGNA, UTAH--The following six paragraphs are excerpts from a story in a recent edition of the Salt Lake Tribune:

Joel Brown's T-shirt says, "I've Had It Up to Here."

It's his stage attire -- but also his life. Six years ago, a car accident left him paralyzed "up to here," a few inches below his shoulders.

Joel is wearing the T-shirt center-stage in Magna's Brockbank Junior High School auditorium, where he and older brother Graham Brown sit side by side on straight-back wooden chairs.

Music. Action. One brother nudges the other. He elbows back. The nudging becomes a duet. Shoulders shrugging, arms rotating, hands waving, the two are dancing in their seats.

They drop to the floor. Graham, 24, gets up and walks away. Joel, 15, rolls, slides, gathers his knees and rolls again until he lifts himself into his Quickie wheelchair. Graham, now seated in a matching wheelchair, moves toward his brother to the beat of a Dave Matthews Band song. And they are dancing, rolling on one wheel, meeting, passing, moving side by side with split second timing. They are in and out of the wheelchairs, Graham lifting Joel, then Joel, on his back, supporting Graham in "Superman" flight. Joel does his "parlor trick," tucking his legs behind his head while doing a pushup.

The piece is called "I've Had It Up to Here," and Graham, a junior in the University of Utah Department of Modern Dance, is the choreographer. The brothers first performed the dance at the department's spring concert. Joel invited Brockbank Junior High teacher Lisa Shafer to see it.

Entire article:
"Disability dances to brothers' tune" (Salt Lake Tribune)



Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation Office of Disability, Aging, and Long-Term Care Policy (HHS)

The Office of Disability, Aging and Long-Term Care Policy (DALTCP) is charged with developing, analyzing, evaluating and coordinating HHS policies and programs which support the independence, productivity, health and long-term care needs of children, working age adults and older persons with disabilities.




Supreme Court Restricts Forced Medication For Defendants With Mental Illness

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 16, 2003

WASHINGTON, DC--In a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the government cannot force criminal defendants with mental illness to take medication in an attempt to make them "competent to stand trial", except "in limited circumstances".

The case involved former St. Louis dentist Dr. Charles Sell, who has been held for more than four years in a federal prison medical center, while accused of Medicaid fraud and other charges, including conspiring and attempting to kill a witness and an FBI agent.

Sell has been diagnosed with a "delusional disorder", and is considered unfit for trial without the use of anti-psychotic medications.

The government wanted to force him to take the medications so he would be able to stand trial.

"The justices put a pretty high bar for the government to meet," said Barry Short, Sell's lawyer. "The justices didn't buy into what the government wanted, the right to medicate them under any circumstance."

In Monday's ruling, the court said that in a situation such as Sell's, the government must prove it has no other choice but to force medication, and that it has an important interest in prosecuting the crime. The treatment must also be medically appropriate and unlikely to produce side effects that might hurt the defendant's ability to have a fair trial, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the decision.

"Sell v. United States" (Findlaw)


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