Disability Advocates File Amicus Brief in Terri Schiavo Lawsuit

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 6, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Disability Advocates File Amicus Brief in Terri Schiavo Lawsuit

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
October 6, 2003

Clearwater, FL (LifeNews.com) — Several disability rights groups on Monday filed a legal brief in opposition to removing Terri Schiavo from a feeding tube.

Ten disability rights groups, a university affiliated policy center, a patients’ rights group, and two individuals who have experienced severe brain injury filed the amicus brief supporting Terri Schiavo’s right to food, water and rehabilitation.

The groups include some of the leading disability rights organizations in the country. Most are governed and staffed by a majority of people with disabilities of all types, including people with severe physical and cognitive disabilities.

The groups believe the ultimate decision about Terri’s fate could have severe legal consequences for thousands of people with disabilities who may not be able to express their own wishes about their medical treatment and must rely on third parties and substitute decision-makers.

"A judge’s order to terminate the life of a woman with severe disabilities is not a private family matter," explained attorney Max Lapertosa. "Terminating [Terri’s] life support would not be possible without the authority of the courts. This case reflects whether our society and legal system values the lives of people with disabilities equally to those without disabilities."

Diane Coleman, President of Not Dead Yet, a national disability rights group opposed to legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia, feels this case is of national importance.

"Florida’s not the only state that has made it easier to end the lives of people with mental retardation and brain damage," says Coleman. "This is happening all over the country.  What makes it even scarier is that new evidence keeps emerging that
many people labeled as ‘vegetative’ are misdiagnosed."

Coleman said new research indicates many people believed to be in "persistent vegetative state" show areas of the brain that exhibit near-normal activity when exposed to such things as music and the voices of loved ones.

That’s exactly what has been observed in videos of Terri Schiavo.

The organizations participating in the amicus brief include:

Not Dead Yet, ADAPT, American Association of People with
Disabilities, Center for Self-Determination, Center on Human
Policy at Syracuse University, Rev. Rus Cooper-Dowda, Hospice
Patients’ Alliance, Dr. James Hall, National Council on Independent
Living, National Spinal Cord Injury Association, Self-Advocates
Becoming Empowered, TASH, World Association of Persons with
Disabilities, and World Institute on Disability.

Related web sites:
Not Dead Yet – https://www.notdeadyet.org