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.

Friday, June 25, 2004
Year V, Edition 960

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 36 more news items.

"All I can say is that if it wasn't Jack Kevorkian's name on the case, there would have been a different decision."

--Meyer Morganroth, attorney for Jack Kevorkian, on an appeals court's decision to toss out the assisted-suicide campaigner's latest plea to have his prison sentence shortened (First story)

"I know my parents were not terminally ill. The only terminal illness they had was in their heads."
--David Stokes, whose parents traveled from England to Switzerland to die at a euthanasia clinic last year (Third story)



Kevorkian Appeal Rejected, Again

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 25, 2004

DETROIT, MICHIGAN--The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected assisted-suicide campaigner Jack Kevorkian's appeal for a new trial.

The appeals court issued a brief one-page decision Tuesday, upholding a November 2003 U.S. District Court ruling which had denied Kevorkian's request to be released from prison instead of serving out his 10- to 25-year sentence for second-degree murder. The District Court judge determined that Kevorkian's claims "are all lacking in substantive merit."

According to the Detroit News, the attorney representing Kevorkian said he will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"All I can say is that if it wasn't Jack Kevorkian's name on the case, there would have been a different decision," Meyer Morganroth said. "Jack Kevorkian put a lot of people's nose out of joint. This was an unfair, outrageous trial."

By his own admission, Kevorkian assisted at least 130 people to kill themselves, as part of his campaign to make doctor-assisted suicide legal in the United States. In March of 1999, he was convicted of second-degree murder for inducing the death of Thomas Youk, a man who had amyotropic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Kevorkian was convicted after replaying Youk's video-taped death on the "60 Minutes" television news magazine.

Past attempts to have Kevorkian released prior to his first scheduled parole hearing in 2007 have also failed.

Disability rights advocates have opposed Kevorkian and his crusade to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia. They have argued that doing so would essentially make it "open season" for people with disabilities and anyone else who is considered undesirable or a "burden" on society -- particularly at a time when the cost of health care is high. They have also pointed out that most of those Kevorkian helped end their lives were in emotional, psychological or social crises, not in the final stages of terminal illnesses as was previously believed.

Kevorkian, 76, is currently serving time at the Thumb Correctional Facility in Lapeer, Michigan. Many of his supporters have been petitioning Governor Jennifer Granholm to grant a pardon for Kevorkian, who reportedly is having health problems.

Dubbed "Dr. Death" by the media and his opponents, Kevorkian has promised not to assist in any more suicides if released.

Earlier this year, Kevorkian published a 277-page book entitled, "glimmerIQs", in which he reportedly gave his opinions about assisted suicide, diet and other topics.

"The Suicide Machine" (Detroit Free Press)
"Jack Kevorkian: 'Dr. Death'" (Inclusion Daily Express)



Teachers Union Says Charter Plan Discriminates Against Students With Disabilities

June 25, 2004

BUFFALO, NEW YORK--The Buffalo Teachers Federation wants the state Board of Regents to toss out a plan to convert Westminster Community School into a charter school.

According to a brief story in Friday's Buffalo News, the teachers union says that the plan will treat students with disabilities as "outcasts", because it would allow Westminster to reject such students who apply in the future, and remove those already enrolled.

"They're treating handicapped students as pariahs," BTF President Philip Rumore said. "I also think it's illegal and, if the Regents agree with this, we will find a way to stick up for the handicapped students."

Those who support the conversion say they are frustrated because they intend to make the facility accessible to students with disabilities.

"We'll be leasing a building that is not currently accessible," said Michael Zabel, spokesman for M&T Bank, one of the organizations behind Westminster's conversion. "Despite that, we're working on a plan to make it accessible and at our expense."

The union said it is considering legal action.

"Regents urged to reject charter" (Buffalo News)



"Suicide Tourists" Had Mental Illnesses, But Not Terminal Illnesses

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 25, 2004

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND--Officials are investigating a euthanasia clinic after it was determined that it violated its own rules and Swiss law when it allowed two British "suicide tourists" to kill themselves last year.

An inquest on Tuesday revealed that Robert Stokes, 59, and his wife Jennifer, 53, of Bedfordshire, England died together in the "death room" of a flat owned by the euthanasia organization Dignitas, after taking lethal levels of a drug normally used by veterinarians to put animals to death.

The inquest also revealed, however, that the couple were not in the final stages of terminal illness, nor were they "of sound mind" when they showed up at the clinic on April 1, 2003.

Bedfordshire coroner David Morris said, "No evidence has been put to me that either of them were in any terminal state or expected imminent death."

In fact, the couple, who met each other while in a psychiatric institution, both experienced mental and physical disabilities and had repeatedly turned down offers of help.

According to various news reports, Mr. Stokes had epilepsy which had been made worse by electric shock treatments and two brain operations. Medical reports said he had "depression with suicidal elements". Mrs. Stokes had diabetes, multiple sclerosis and had used a wheelchair following a spinal injury in the 1980s.

Family members said the two were worried that they might get placed into separate nursing facilities if their health continued to deteriorate.

Disability rights groups have opposed attempts to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia, citing situations in which people with physical and mental disabilities have been pressured to take their own lives, or have been killed by others. Governments that have allowed assisted suicide have included guidelines that restrict the ability of people with mental illness -- or who do not have an incurable condition -- to receive help in dying.

Under Swiss law, those who seek assistance in killing themselves are supposed to be evaluated to confirm that they are terminally ill and have made a conscious, "rational" decision to die.

The founder of Dignitas, Ludwig Minelli, has said that depression can sometimes be considered an irreversible illness.

One pro-euthanasia group has already used the Stokes' deaths to call for making assisted suicide legal in Britain.

"This was a horrifying case and it indicates the effect of the laws we have now," said a spokesman for the Voluntary Euthanasia Society. "Unless the Government puts in place laws that regulate assisted suicide, more people will die this way."

"Couple who died after suicide clinic visit 'not terminally ill'" (The Independent)



Meatpackers File Discrimination Suit

June 25, 2004

GREELEY, COLORADO--Six employees at the Swift & Co.'s meatpacking plant filed a lawsuit Thursday in federal court, claiming the company discriminated against them by refusing to let them continue working light duty jobs after they had been injured on the job.

According to the Associated Press, the suit claimed that the plant's previous owners, Con Agra, accommodated the workers' disabilities, but that Swift changed the policy when it bought the plant last year. They accused Swift of changing light duty jobs to six-month assignments. Those who could not perform the regular duties within that time were placed on medical leave and then were terminated if they did not return to the job within 18 months.

Five of the workers are on involuntary, unpaid leave from Swift. The other was placed on unpaid leave in March 2003 but returned to her job three months later.

The workers who lost their jobs are seeking their old positions, along with back pay and benefits.

The AP said the company did not return phone calls Thursday.



Teen Lives By Motto: "Because I Can . . ."

June 25, 2004

FLORIDA, NEW YORK--The following four paragraphs are excerpts from a story in Friday's Times Herald-Record:

When Elizabeth Sanza says she wants to do something, she goes out and does it.

Like last year, when she decided she wanted to go to the junior prom in a limo and just had to have a date.

All right, so the limo didn't quite work out because her wheelchair couldn't fit through the door, but she did bag two dates. She was escorted to the prom in a brand new van instead.

"Because I can" -- that's Sanza's favorite saying.

Entire article:
"Determination is the key for inspirational teenager" (Times Herald-Record)



The Medicaid Community Attendant Services Act, MiCASSA

MiCASSA: A community-based alternative to nursing homes and institutions for people with disabilities


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

"No" Is Not Final Answer For "Millionaire" Discrimination Suit
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 25, 2002

MIAMI, FLORIDA--A federal appeals court has decided that ABC-TV can be sued for discriminating against people with disabilities who want to be contestants on the popular game show "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?"

At issue is the producer's use of a touch-tone call-in system to qualify would-be contestants. "Millionaire" has prospective contestants call a toll-free telephone number and then use their phone's touch-tone pad to quickly answer five questions.

Disability rights advocates with Miami's Center for Independent Living filed the suit two years ago, claiming that the show discriminates against people who are deaf, hard of hearing or who have certain physical disabilities that prevent them from quickly tapping out the answers on touch-tone buttons. The group says the show should use live operators or some other system that does not exclude people with disabilities.

Miami District Judge Federico Moreno ruled in 2000 that the Americans with Disabilities Act was not broad enough to include how the show qualifies contestants, and threw out the case.

But last Tuesday, the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta decided that the plaintiffs had a valid discrimination claim, and reinstated the lawsuit.

"We don't want to alter or make changes in the show, but we want to make it fair," Michael Lanham, the lawyer for the Center for Independent Living told the Associated Press.

"All we want is for reasonable accommodations to be made."


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