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Obit: Paul Steven Miller, law professor and disability advocate

October 21st, 2010

From the New York Times:

After graduating at the top of his class at Harvard Law School in the 1980s, Paul Steven Miller was rejected by more than 40 law firms before he was able to find work. The reason: Miller was born with achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism. One hiring partner told him that clients would think the firm was running a “circus freak show” if they took him on.

Miller, who went on to become a law professor, advisor to presidents and leader in the disability rights movement, died Tuesday of cancer. He was 49, and was widely recognized as an expert on the intersection of disability law, employment discrimination and genetic science.

An excerpt from the New York Times obituary:

Drew Hansen, an adjunct lecturer who taught with Mr. Miller, said his colleague had long been concerned about the carrying out of the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act. “He believed that judicial interpretations of the A.D.A. were more restrictive than they had been of civil rights laws because there was not a similarly visible mass social movement,” Mr. Hansen said.

In recent years, Mr. Miller focused on tensions between disability rights and genetic science. In a paper titled “Avoiding Genetic Genocide,” Mr. Miller criticized scientists for what he saw as their eagerness to use genetics to produce “perfect” humans.

“Good health is not the absence of a disability,” he wrote. “Scientists caught up in the excitement of genetic discovery can forget that life with a disability can still be a rich and fulfilling life.”

Earlier posts here.

See also: Miller presentation at Georgia State University College of Law: “Good Intentions and Eugenics: Avoiding Genetic Genocide.” With audio.

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More than 50 million people in the United States have disabilities, a number that is growing rapidly as the population ages. Experts say disability will soon affect the lives of most Americans. This website attempts to aggregate news and commentary about disability, and to document the efforts of people who are seeking new ways to address familiar challenges.

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