Interesting article on the construction of disability in China by Yee-Fui Ng (Sessional Lecturer and PhD Candidate, Monash University Law School). The abstract: This article explores the tension between the Chinese government’s strong engagement in disability rights and simultaneous focus on ‘quality births’, which results in the abortion of disabled foetuses. At a broader level, the author examines the politicised and cultural construction of disability in China by scrutinising how the ‘disabled’ are defined, administered, policed and governed in postsocialist China.
Blogger Cassy Fiano writes about parents who try to force their surrogate to abort their disabled baby. Cassy is has two sons, one has Down Syndrome.
Crystal Kelley wanted to give the gift of a baby to a family who couldn’t have children. She also needed the money that surrogacy brings. And so, she ended up becoming a surrogate mother to a couple in her state of Connecticut who had three children but wanted more. The first half of the pregnancy was friendly and happy, with Kelley and the parents communicating regularly.
Then there was an irregular ultrasound. After several more ultrasounds, the picture was clear: this was a baby who would be born with some disabilities. She had a cleft lip and palate, a cyst on her brain, and a heart defect. The baby’s parents immediately began to pressure Kelley to have an abortion, claiming it was the more “humane” option. Now, most decent people wouldn’t consider it humane to rob a child of her life simply because she might have a disability. This was the way that Kelley felt, and she refused to have an abortion
In November, I posted on the Australian Senate Inquiry into the forced sterilization of women and girls with disabilities. Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) has just made its powerful, eye-opening submission to the Inquiry. And there’s something you can do, pronto, that may make a difference here: endorse or support the submission. Anyone who thinks that forced sterilization is a “thing of the past” shoudl read this submission. First, from the submission (p.20),
There is a historical precedent in several countries including for example the USA (until the 1950s), in Canada and Sweden (until the 1970s), and Japan (until 1996) indicating that torture of women and girls with disabilities by sterilisation occurred on a collective scale – that is, mass forced sterilisation. This policy was rationalised by a pseudo-scientific theory called eugenics – the aim being the eradication of a wide range of social problems by preventing those with ‘physical, mental or social problems’ from reproducing. Although eugenic policies have now been erased from legal statutes in most countries, vestiges still remain within some areas of the legal and medical establishments and within the attitudes of some sectors of the community:
“Disabled people should not have babies.” Continue reading
From the Center for Genetics and Society blog, by Gina Maranto, Biopolitical Times guest editor, March 4, 2013
The unfortunate truth is that discredited ideas never do die, they just rise again in slightly altered forms—witness eugenics. Despite the horrors perpetuated in its name, including forced sterilization and the Holocaust, the eugenic impulse is with us still. One of the forms it takes is schemes for “improving” offspring through the selection and manipulation of embryos.
In the last year or so, one neo-eugenic advocate in particular has been garnering media attention. He’s Julian Savulescu, holder of an array of titles, including an endowed chair and directorship of a center at the University of Oxford funded by the Uehiro Foundation on Ethics and Education.
Some of you may be aware of the matter of “Baby M”, involving a 2-year-old child who was admitted to the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta, on May 25, 2012. She required a ventilator for life support. Despite the parents’ opposition to the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment, which incorporated their religious beliefs, the Court of Queen’s Bench found that it was in the child’s best interests to terminate life support and, on September 14, 2012, ordered the withdrawal of the ventilator. The Court held that there is a general notion in society that a life dependent upon machines and without awareness is not in the best interests of any patient. On September 19, 2012, a three member panel of the Court of Appeal held that there was no error in principle in the Queen’s Bench decision and the appeal was dismissed. On September 20, 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the parents’ application for a further stay. “Baby M’s” ventilator was removed, she suffocated, and died.
The parents are appealing to the Supreme Court of Canada to have Canada’s highest court decide important issues regarding termination of life-sustaining medical treatment. This decision of the lower courts and, if leave is granted, the ultimate decision of the Supreme Court of Canada will decide the process that will be used and who will make decisions to terminate life support.
These decisions of the Alberta Courts and how they will be followed in the future may ultimately affect individuals in your organization or your community. Should you believe that you, your organization, or community have a position on these life and death issues that should be heard and considered Continue reading
As a follow up to the post in the first link below, here is a list of further related links on those wanting to know more. Thanks to a helpful anonymous reader of the What Sorts blog who provided most of the links below but who doesn’t wish to be identified. Folks in Oz: let us know if you have more information, are undertaking action, whatever.
- http://whatsortsofpeople.wordpress.com/2012/11/01/forced-sterilization-and-disability-in-australia/ Recent What sorts blog post on forced sterilization in Australia TODAY:
- 1997 & 2001: reports from the Human Rights Commission in Australia that discuss the practice.
- 1998– official document assessing situation, number of sterilizations per year, convenience of sterilizing disabled woman http://www.familycourt.gov.au/wps/wcm/resources/file/ebb8810487b4021/MURRAY.pdf
- 2001- Study and report from Women With Disabilities Australia. Thorough, including much relevant history, sterilization survivor testimony and narratives, as well as a talk given by Adrienne Asch, and references to the significance of the Canadian eugenic history here, and reports “The Sterilization of Leilani Muir” as one of two video source. http://www.ag.gov.au/Documents/HRPB%20-%20NHRAP%20-%20Baseline%20Study%20-%20Submission%20-%20Women%20with%20Disabilities%20Australia%20-%20Attachment%205.PDF
- Leilani Muir on The Current, with Anna Maria Tremonti Continue reading
A Senate committee was recently established in Australia to review existing law and social policy concerning the sterilization of people with disabilities.
It seems that the inquiry is a response to public response (surprise? outrage?) to finding out that this practice continues in Australia under state and territorial legislation, and beyond it.
I suspect that the commission will find that Continue reading
22 May 2012 Disability Rights Washington and Video Galaxy have great new video on the Ashley Treatment on their website. There is also a poll on this page asking whether you believe more safeguards are needed to protect the civil rights of people with disabilities from civil rights violations and medical discrimination of the Ashley Treatment and related procedures. Continue reading
from The National Post, by Michael Shevell
This NP article is itself taken from a longer article in the January 2012 issue of the Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences.
Though bespectacled and slight of build, Tommy Douglas is a giant of 20th Century Canadian history. His iconic, indeed mythic, status within the Canadian historical landscape is exemplified by his selection, in 2004, as “The Greatest Canadian” in a CBC-mandated competition above such luminaries as former Prime Ministers Pierre Elliot Trudeau and Lester Bowles Pearson, scientist Frederick Banting, and hockey great Wayne Gretzky. This honour reflects Douglas’ role as the “father” of Canadian Medicare, which has emerged, for better or worse, as a defining feature of a Canadian national identity.
Medicare has in effect emerged as a statement of national values. Values that include compassion, fairness, tolerance and equality; values that are not selectively applied, but are extended to embrace even the most vulnerable of Canadians.
Eugenics, by contrast, concerns itself at its most fundamental level with the selective breeding of humanity to improve the human species. At a practical level, eugenics in the 20th century involved the removal from the gene pool by various means those classes of individuals considered “inferior stock,” whose deficits had an inherited basis that was immutable for future generations. These classes included those suffering from mental illness, intellectual disability or what was characterized as social diseases (e.g, alcoholism, delinquency).
The broad principles of universal-access medicare contradict those that can be utilized to justify the practice of eugenics. It would be paradoxical for an individual to support both. Yet Tommy Douglas did so with moral persuasion. Careful analysis of this contradiction reveals with hindsight further paradoxes that merit consideration. … read more
Sweden, “one of 17 [countries] in the European Union,” may soon change a law that requires transgendered people to become sexually sterilized if they decide to officially change gender. Sweden has made moves to repeal the law in January, only to be stopped by the Christian Democrat Party. However, this party has recently changed their mind, allowing the repeal to go through.
This move was partially in thanks to an online petition, by AllOut (http://allout.org/en/actions/stop_forced_sterilization), which gained 80,000 international signatures to repeal the law. However, the date for repealing the law is still pending.
Countries that still require sterilization include France, Italy, Romania, Poland, Greece, and Portugal. For a map outlining the current status of European sterilization, you can link here: http://motherjones.com/mojo/2012/02/most-european-countries-force-sterilization-transgender-people-map
An article from the New York Times tells the story of Milt Greek, who experiences psychotic delusions to save the world.
So after cleaning the yard around his house — a big job, a gift to his wife — in the coming days he sat down and wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper, supporting a noise-pollution ordinance.
Small things, maybe, but Mr. Greek has learned to live with his diagnosis in part by understanding and acting on its underlying messages, and along the way has built something exceptional: a full life, complete with a family and a career.
Greek, and a growing number of others, have looked to their delusions as being rooted in fears, and other psychological wounds, with the goal of recovery through understanding. It’s a process that Continue reading
Dr. Adrian M. Owen, a British neuroscientist currently working at the University of Western Ontario, recently presented his research at the University of Alberta. The research team at UWO, led by Damian Cruse and Adrian M. Owen, claims to have found a way to test for consciousness in patients utterly unresponsive. Using an fMRI scan to take images of patients’ brains while asking them to imagine certain things (either playing tennis or walking through a house) as a means of responding “yes” or “no” to questions, revealed, according to Dr. Owen, that at least 20% of patients labelled as being in vegetative states are in fact conscious (at least some of the time), but merely unable to communicate with the outside world that they in fact are conscious. Because the mental states associated with playing tennis are consistently and ubiquitously correlated with a distinctly different part of the brain than mental states associated with spatial location, the UWO team deemed the “tennis-playing” and “house-walking” thoughts to be perfectly suited to code for such distinct responses as affirming or negating something.
The problem with assessing whether or not someone is conscious is that short of asking, all we have at our disposal is diagnoses made based on behavioural outputs (one such output being an affirmative verbal response to the question “are you conscious?”). However, assessing the level of consciousness of a patient incapable of outward communication of any sort becomes quite difficult. According to Dr. Owen, 20% of patients previously labelled as being in vegetative states showed signs of consciousness precisely because, thanks to the fMIR scans and the questioning techniques used by the UWO team, they were able to acknowledge their awareness by correctly responding to questions about their personal lives (i.e. questions regarding the names of a parent, the location of their last vacation prior to the accident, etc.).
Such a breakthrough, according to Dr. Owen, could potentially help clinicians make more accurate diagnoses (he cited a current 45% occurrence of misdiagnosis of patients with severe brain damage) and, perhaps even more importantly, it could help shape policies regarding the passive euthanasia of patients like Terri Schiavo. Here is a New York Times article directly related to Dr. Owen’s research.
There are several questions, in light of Dr. Owen’s research, that come to mind: Is there a problem with passive euthanasia if a patient like Terri could have been asked? Was there a problem with it (in the case of Terri) regardless of such a possibility? What if once assessed as conscious and subsequently asked, a patient expressed a wish to be euthanised, but not passively euthanised because of the long and cruel nature of death by starvation and dehydration? If 20% of patients in Dr. Owen’s study showed signs of consciousness, could there be more? What should we make of the moral status of individuals who’s mental lives weave in and out of consciousness or consist of some very faint traces of consciousness? What “amount” of identifiable signs of consciousness is enough? Is it appropriate at all that consciousness is, as it seems to have become, the moral threshold between life and death? There are many interesting questions that emerge from this issue more generally as well as the research at UWO more specifically. For now, as I continue to digest Dr. Owen’s talk, I just pose some of these questions in their raw and unpolished forms, hopefully to get some insightful comments, concerns, other questions, etc., which will certainly aid in my thinking through such issues.
from the NYT, July 28th, an Op-Ed piece by bioethicist Carl Elliott:
LAST month, the Archives of Internal Medicine published a scathing reassessment of a 12-year-old research study of Neurontin, a seizure drug made by Pfizer. The study, which had included more than 2,700 subjects and was carried out by Parke-Davis (now part of Pfizer), was notable for how poorly it was conducted. The investigators were inexperienced and untrained, and the design of the study was so flawed it generated few if any useful conclusions. Even more alarming, 11 patients in the study died and 73 more experienced “serious adverse events.” Yet there have been few headlines, no demands for sanctions or apologies, no national bioethics commissions pledging to investigate. Why not?
The following text is adapted from a video address by McGill medical ethicist Dr. Margaret Somerville to the International Association for the Study of Pain congress in Montreal. The final event of the congress was the International Pain Summit at which the Declaration of Montreal was to be presented and discussed. The declaration provides that access to pain management is a fundamental human right.
Ethical Challenges at the Beginning of Life: 3 Recent Cases Involving Newborns with Serious Genetic Disorders
Alberta Children’s Hospital
Alberta Health Services
Calgary & South Zone
Room 2-07 Heritage Medical Research Centre
For more information, please call 780-492-6676 or visit
One of the most common questions random strangers at bus stops, cab drivers, airport staff, and anyone else in my presence long enough to make the absence of small talk slightly awkward will ask me as a blind person is: “so there’s nothing they can do?” There are some very interesting assumptions built into this question.
This question assumes that, if “they” could do something, then I wouldn’t be blind. It assumes that I want them to do something. It assumes that it is someone else that needs to do something, and because the “they” refers to doctors and/or scientists, the question assumes that the “thing” that needs doing relates to treatment and/or cure.
I’ve been thinking about this more lately because of a couple of emails sent to my inbox in the last two days. The first was forwarded to me by a family member. It was originally sent out by “the Foundation Fighting Blindness”, and the second was a CTV News story sent to a blind-related listserv I subscribe to.
The 5-year project, Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada will launch its public face with some inaugural events in Edmonton at the end of this week. All events are free and open to the public, and we welcome community and university members, individuals and organizations.
We start on Friday 22nd October, 2010, with a keynote address by Professor Douglas Wahlsten at the Telus Centre on the campus of the University of Alberta, at 7pm, entitled “Eugenics in Alberta: Science and Politics”. The talk is in Room 150, doors open at 6:30 and a reception will follow.
Events on Saturday October 23, 2010 take place on the lower floor of the Stanley Milner Library located opposite Churchill Square in Edmonton. We will be downstairs in the Edmonton Room, with coffee and snacks available at 9.45am and the first session starting at 10.00am. Members of the public are also welcome to attend a short meeting of the governing board, which will begin at 9.00am in the same location. The Saturday events include:
- Dick Sobsey & Heidi Janz “Picturing Eugenics: Telling the Story of Eugenics Through Alternative Communication”
- Erika Dyck, “Building a People’s History of Eugenics: Archives Past and Present”
- Gregor Wolbring, “Dynamics Around Eugenic Acceptance and Rejection: Lesson for the Future”
- Claudia Malacrida, “Creating an Oral History of Eugenics Questions of Scope, Ethics and Access”
To register for the free lunch or request disability accommodations, please contact email@example.com or register directly at http://www.whatsorts.net/register/. You can also get updated information at http://www.whatsorts.net Continue reading
The story below by Nick Collins is from the Sydney Morning Herald; h/t Peter Chen.
What year is it? From what they’re doing, you might think 1910, rather than 2010. And from the name of the project, you might think 1984. See also the earlier BBC News story, from February 2010, “Should drug addicts be paid to get sterilised?”
Charity pays addict $320 to have a vasectomy
October 19, 2010
LONDON: A drug addict has become the first person in Britain to be sterilised in exchange for cash under a new project.
The man, known as John, who has been addicted to heroin for 15 years, was given £200 ($320) by a US charity to have a vasectomy. Project Prevention, the charity running the scheme, has made similar payments to thousands of men and women in the US in a campaign to prevent them having children who may inherit their addictions. //
The 38-year-old man said he had been involved with drugs since age 11 or 12 and that the offer of money had prompted him to have the operation. ”It was kind of what spurred me into doing it in a way. It was something that I’d been thinking about for a long time and something that I’d already made my mind up that I wanted to do. Just hadn’t got around to it.” The charity began offering the cash incentive to British addicts after paying 3500 Americans to be sterilised.
You can read the full story here, and an earlier story on passing the 3000th person milestone, back in April 2009, over here. There is also a Facebook group, “No to eugenics in the UK! Keep Project Prevention Out of the UK“. You can also see how Project Prevention presents itself on its website; it is a 501(c) registered charity in the US.
Euthanasia, always a controversial topic, is about to get alot of media attention again…
As public hearings on the controversial topic of dying with dignity get underway in Quebec, the chair of the committee expects debate to become emotional.
Quebec Liberal MNA Geoff Kelley says it’s been 17 years since B.C.’s Sue Rodriguez brought the issues of mercy killing to the fore, when she fought all the way to the Supreme Court for the right to kill herself. And though the court eventually ruled against her, the debate has never gone away, he says. Continue reading