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Thursday, September 30, 2004



CONTACTS: Diane Coleman, J.D. & Stephen Drake, M.S.
(708) 209-1500 ext. 11 & 29; (c) (708) 420-0539


On Thursday, disability activists across the country expressed
their deep concern over the decision by the Florida Supreme Court,
which declared legislation popularly referred to as "Terri's Law"

In a unanimous decision, the court struck down the law that
replaced Terri Schiavo's feeding tube after her husband obtained
a court order to remove it last fall. The removal of the tube would
cause her to die slowly of dehydration over a week to ten days.

"The court in this case has obviously put the constitutional principle
of separation of powers over the individual's right to due process.
The court is more interested in protecting its turf than the people
that occupy that turf," said Diane Coleman, president of Not Dead
Yet, a national disability rights group. In addition to Not Dead Yet,
16 national disability groups, including the Arc of the United States
and TASH supported the legislation to keep Terri Schiavo alive.
Both groups represent the interests of people with significant
intellectual disabilities similar to Terri's. National disability groups
have filed amicus briefs in three separate appellate proceedings
concerning the fate of Terri Schiavo.

Most Floridians have been misled about the issues surrounding
the starvation of Terri Schiavo. The dispute between her spouse
and parents about whether Terri would have wanted her food and
water discontinued has the potential to impact millions of lives.
For the most part, the press has reported that the battle has been
taken up by those calling themselves "pro-choice" on the spouse's
side and those calling themselves "pro-life" on the parents' side.

What has been ignored are organizations representing the millions
of people in guardianship like Terri Schiavo and whose legal rights
will be dramatically affected by this case. Just as Terri Schiavo's
life is being devalued and marginalized, even to the point of imposing
a painful death through dehydration that she did not ask for, the
voices of the disability community she belongs to have also been
marginalized in the press. We in the disability community are
tired of being pushed aside when it's the lives of people in our own
community that are on the line.

The threatened execution of Terri Schiavo is a denial of her basic
human rights by a society that feels that people like her aren't
worth the time and money it takes to care for them. The widely-
used term "vegetable" is just another way of saying "useless eater,"
the term the Third Reich used for those people with disabilities it

This is a case in which the forms of court proceedings have been
elevated over justice. The early finding that Terri would have
chosen starvation was contradicted by too much evidence to
meet "clear and convincing" standards. "This is like a death
penalty case in which the evidence shows that the convicted
defendant was innocent, but no technical legal error was made,"
Coleman said. "In such a case, the Governor could issue a
pardon, but for Terri, the Court slammed the door in her face."
Diane Coleman
Not Dead Yet

posted by Vetzine


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