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Archive for the ‘law’ Category

Obit: Paul Steven Miller, law professor and disability advocate

Thursday, 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.

UPDATE

See also:

US Airways ejects man with wheelchair: ‘Too disabled to fly’

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

From ABC News, CNN, Grand Rapids [MI] Press:

Johnnie Tuitel, a motivational speaker who uses a wheelchair, says he was forced to leave a recent US Airways flight before takeoff because flight personnel had decided that he was “too disabled to fly.”

Tuitel, who has cerebral palsy, said the incident occurred last month while he was waiting for his flight to take off from Palm Beach, headed for a speaking engagement in Kansas City, Mo. He said he was told that he could not stay on the flight unless he had an attendant with him. Tuitel was removed from the flight and missed his engagement.

US Airways said the decision to deplane Tuitel was because of safety concerns.

:”We just felt it wasn’t safe for him to fly that day, unassisted,” said spokesman Todd Lehmacher. “Our number-one priority, of course, is safety. We transport 80 million passengers a year. The crew just felt it wasn’t safe for him to fly.”

… “I just think that my civil rights were violated, and that I should have the same rights to fly as any other citizen so that I can do business,” Tuitel said in a press release. “All I want to do as speaker is to make a living and take care of my family.”

By Marybeth Hicks, writing in the Washington Times:

Being the reluctant flier that I am, and having visited Mr. Tuitel’s website and watched his videos, I would sit next to him on any flight. Most emergencies require strength of character, courage, tenacity and a sense of humor. It’s clear US Airways kicked off the most able of its passengers that day.

Georgia settles ADA suit over confinement of people with disabilities

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

From the Los Angeles Times, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, AP/New York Times:

In a decision that is being hailed as a historic step toward enforcing the rights of people with disabilities, the state of Georgia has reached an agreement with the Justice Department to move many people with mental illness or developmental disabilities out of state psychiatric hospitals and into their communities.

The agreement, which settles a lawsuit alleging that the state was engaging in illegal segregation of people with disabilities, follows a federal investigation that found an “alarming frequency” of preventable deaths, suicides and assaults in the hospitals. From the LA Times:

As part of the agreement, Georgia will stop admitting people with developmental disabilities, such as Down syndrome and autism, into its state hospitals by July 1, 2011. The state will move all developmentally disabled patients from state hospitals to “community settings” by July 1, 2015.

The state must also expand community-based services for about 9,000 mentally ill patients.

“This is a monumental step forward for people with mental illness,” said C. Talley Wells, an attorney with the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, one of a number of advocacy groups that worked with the Justice Department under friend-of-the-court status. “No longer will people be confined in a state hospital who could be living much fuller lives in the community.”

Abortion of surrogate fetus with DS sparks ethics debate

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Doctor says Canadian bio-parents demanded termination; Surrogate mom refused, then relented

‘Should the rules of commerce apply to the creation of children?’

From the Vancouver Sun, [UK] Daily Mail:

A Canadian surrogate mother reluctantly terminated her pregnancy at the insistence of the fetus’ biological parents after it was learned that the fetus had an elevated risk of Down syndrome, a Vancouver-area doctor revealed at a recent fertility medicine conference.

The case, in which the surrogate mother initially resisted the abortion and later relented, has sparked a spirited ethical debate over legal oversight of surrogacy arrangements.

Dr. Ken Seethram of the Pacific Centre for Reproductive Medicine in suburban Vancouver said the surrogate had signed a contract with the biological parents that would have absolved the couple of all financial responsibility for raising the child. He did not disclose the identities of the parties, but said the case had occurred within the past year and involved an embryo that had been created with the parents’ egg and sperm.

A bioethicist who has studied the issue extensively argues that contract law should not apply to the transaction, unless human life is to be treated like widgets in a factory.

“Should the rules of commerce apply to the creation of children? No, because children get hurt,” said Juliet Guichon of the University of Calgary. “It’s kind of like stopping the production line: ‘Oh, oh, there’s a flaw.’ It makes sense in a production scenario, but in reproduction it’s a lot more problematic.”

Related editorial in the Calgary [Alberta] Herald: ‘Vital debate needed on surrogacy and other IVF issues’

An excerpt:

It could be argued that the terms of the contract need to be spelled out clearly be-fore the surrogacy gets underway, but then that lends the resulting infant the status of a manufactured good — and nobody should be comfortable placing a human being on such a level.

… What needs to be kept uppermost in mind while sorting through the moral and ethical ramifications of the complex scenarios in vitro fertilization has engendered, is that a human being — not a commodity or product — is the subject matter.

Autism debate goes to high court

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

The Supreme Court is hearing arguments today about whether vaccine manufacturers should be protected from virtually all product liability lawsuits. At the heart of the case, says the New York Times, is the safety of the vaccines themselves. The case could have implications for hundreds of lawsuits alleging a connection between vaccines and autism. See also the Wall Street Journal.

Speaking of vaccines, Forbes says California is seeing the worst epidemic of whooping cough in almost 60 years, with more than 5,200 people infected and 9 children dead. Some of those deaths almost certainly could have been prevented if autism fears hadn’t kept people from getting vaccinated, says Forbes blogger Steven Salzberg.

Says Salzberg:

It’s not a coincidence that California is the center of the new pertussis epidemic. Vaccination rates among adults in California have been dropping in recent years, large due to the influence of anti-vaccination zealots such as Jenny McCarthy and groups such as Age of Autism.

… Everyone should have their children vaccinated. On top of that, in order to maintain herd immunity, most of us should get the pertussis booster shot if we haven’t had one in the last ten years. That’s what vaccine expert Paul Offit recommends, and I’m planning to follow his advice myself. It won’t take long, and it might save a life.

President signs technology access measure

Monday, October 11th, 2010

From AP on MSNBC, with video; the Digital Journal; Wireless Week; American Foundation for the Blind release in the Kansas City Star:

President Obama has signed legislation that requires smart phones, television programs and other modern communications technologies to be made accessible to people who have impaired vision or hearing.

The legislation was hailed as “life-changing” by Paul Schroeder, a vice president at the American Foundation for the Blind.

“We’ve come a long way but even today, after all the progress that we’ve made, too many Americans with disabilities are still measured by what folks think they can’t do, instead of what we know they can do,” Obama said.

The new law “will make it easier for people who are deaf, blind or live with a visual impairment to do what many of us take for granted,” he said, from navigating a TV or DVD menu to sending an e-mail on a smart phone.

Obama honors girl who inspired ‘Rosa’s law’

Monday, October 11th, 2010

President Obama celebrated the signing of “Rosa’s Lawat an East Room ceremony honoring of 9-year-old Rosa Marcellino, the Maryland girl with Down syndrome who was its inspiration. The law ends the use of the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” in federal health, education and labor laws. “It’s so inspiring to have her here,” the president said, looking over at Rosa.

“The most important thing about Rosa’s Law is respect,” said Paul Marcellino, Rosa’s father. “For all her peers, all her friends. Everybody who she’s around. They won’t be using that word to describe my daughter anymore. That’s the main thing.”

A sampling of coverage:

  • ABC News names Rosa Marcellino its “Person of the Week.” The piece, with video, is accompanied by a string of vitriolic reader comments criticizing the law and its intent.
  • Obama praises Maryland girl who inspired new law — Baltimore Sun
  • Sen. Mikulski joins inspiration for Rosa’s law at White House Ceremony — Capital News Service

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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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