by Steven Ertelt
March 27, 2006
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — Fearing that the kind of painful starvation and dehydration euthanasia death that Terri Schiavo suffered could await other disabled people, disability rights activists this week will mark the anniversary of Terri’s passing on Friday with grim concerns.
They are resolving to fight for safeguards preventing doctors or family members from revoking lifesaving medical treatment and to stop other states from joining Oregon in legalizing assisted suicide.
"Even though at least 26 national disability groups expressed concern over apparent violations of civil rights and guardianship laws in the withholding of food and fluids from Terri Schiavo, the ‘culture war’ framework imposed by others carried the day and still dominates the discussion,” says research analyst Stephen Drake of Not Dead Yet.
Drake said the debate surrounding Terri Schiavo "was never a simple right-left controversy" and pointed out that liberal figures as diverse as Jesse Jackson, Ralph Nader and Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin all expressed concern about Schiavo’s death and about people in similar situations.
“The media, pundits and demagogues have all but erased that complexity from the public consciousness,” says Drake.
In the year following Micahel killing Terri, Not Dead Yet says "things have gotten worse." The group points to the case of Haleigh Poutre, an 11-year-old girl in Massachusetts.
After she was allegedly beaten by her adoptive mother and stepfather, the Department of Social Services sued to disconnect young Haleigh from her ventilator and feeding tube. Ironically, she was saved by a court challenge from her stepfather, who would have faced a murder charge had she been disconnected from life support.
Within days of a court order “allowing” her to die with “dignity,” DSS reported that Haleigh Poutre showed signs of awareness and the ability to follow simple requests.
She is now in a rehabilitation hospital. This case raises questions about doctors’ “rush to judgment” in declaring people with brain injury permanently unconscious, and about the state’s – through the courts and its agencies – eagerness to withhold treatment and end their lives.
Not Dead Yet fears that the Poutre case "is the tip of an iceberg" and expressed frustration with the media and its inability or reluctance to engage in open, complex discussions of these issues.
The organization is getting more disability groups to sign onto its Statement of Common Principles that sets out principles to guide a guardian’s decisions with respect to life sustaining medical treatment.
Diane Coleman, president of Not Dead Yet, said the statement is necessary because “We see many indications that managed care, government funded health care providers and overburdened courts have ignored constitutional principles that we used to take for granted, threatening millions of old, ill and disabled Americans who are endangered on many fronts."