Electric EDGE
Web Edition of The Ragged Edge
January/February 1997
Electric Edge

A direct action group calling itself Not Dead Yet held its first national protest last June on Kevorkian's lawn, reports Incitement, the newsletter of American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today (ADAPT). In late July, reports the September issue of Horizons, the group picketed the National Press Club where Kevorkian was speaking and held a sidewalk press conference.

A furious parrot

by Mary Jane Owen
Disability activist Mary Jane Owen was one of the protesters outside the National press Club July 29 when Kevorkian spoke. Later she wrote of the incident and her thoughts on press coverage of assisted suicide.

I t was important that some of us with disabilities were there to greet Dr. Kevorkian as he entered the National Press Club. The following day there was a paragraph about the demonstrations in an excellent analysis of Dr. Kevorkian's rantings by Richard Leiby in The Washington Post.

... Mr. Leiby is the reporter who exposed the lack of postmortem evidence of multiple sclerosis following Rebecca Badger's death. His analysis was dismissed as "lies" at the luncheon, although Mr. Leiby had included a quote from the county medical examiner, Dr. L. J. Dragovic: "I can show you every slice from her brain and spinal cord, and she doesn't have a bit of M.S." ...

What bothers a growing number of disability advocates is the extent to which the Death Team [of Jack Kevorkian and his attorney Geoffrey Fieger] dominates the media and escalates the general public's fears and justifies their abhorrence of becoming disabled. ...

The Not Dead Yet leaflet we handed out on July 29 included Dr. Death's statement that "The voluntary self-elimination of individuals and mortally diseased or crippled lives can only enhance the preservation of public health and welfare." On the other side, we asked the question "Why have the views of the qualified and experienced people with disabilities been ignored during the assisted suicide debate of the past decade?"

... Do [right-to-die advocates'] toileting concerns make sense to people outside our community? What might have been her impression as she watched Christopher Reeve on her television screen? Did this rather elegant and eloquent man cause her to think, "How undignified he must be on the toilet! How disgusting!" ...

A friend and I arrived early, before a small crowd of colleagues from various disabilities organizations had taken up their posts. ...[We saw] Dr. Kevorkian, accompanied by a reporter from the New York Times ... leaving a taxi to make an early entry into the Press Club. I gave him a copy of my July column. ... He spit out what [was] apparently [meant as] an insult: Then you are an activist!" I said I wasn't sure what he meant by that word but that certainly I was active and happy. After a few exchanges I felt I was talking to a furious parrot [who was] hurling out phrases unrelated to our encounter ...

Protest at Supreme Court Jan. 8
-- or write letters!

Disability groups are mobilizing for a mass protest 10 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 8 on the foot of the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, DC. That's the day the Court hears arguments in the two right-to-die cases. "People with disabilities are the first to be victims of this 'right,'" say organizers Lucy Gwin and Tom Olin. "No one outside our community seems to know that people with disabilities are the target." They hope for 20,000 to show up and report that luminaries like Pete Seeger and Elie Wiesel will be on hand. Not Dead Yet is coordinating the action; to get on a contact list call 716/244-9798. Better yet, just show up on Jan. 8.

"Snow is fairly rare in DC. As always, weather is the easy part; it's friends that are hard to come by," says the disability rights 'zine Mouth. "You'll meet a two- or three-block-long assortment of people who care about the things you do,"

If you can't come, says Mouth, throw a letter-writing party to write letters to the Supreme Court Justices. Tips? Get lots of different kinds of paper and envelopes so the letters don't all look alike; have a computer onhand for people who can't hand-write letters; have stamps ready.

Justices don't respond to organizational type letters, says Mouth. "You have a personal stake in this. Write a personal letter. Handwriting letters is good. Tell them what you fear. Stay on the point: We won't live, our grannies and babies won't live, unless the Supreme Court forbids doctors killing patients."

Mouth says one person from the group should be in charge of mailing all the collected letters "on staggered days, not all at once."

Write to each of the Justices? "Yes, it's a lot of work, but so is getting out of the way of a speeding train." The Supreme Court Justices are: Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, Justices John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, David H. Souter, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer. Address: Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, DC 20543.

(Mouth, 61 Brighton St., Rochester, NY. Subscriptions $16/year.)

Related Stories:

  • They're singing those ol' Kevorkian Blues.
  • Paul Longmore talks about terminal illness and how society misses the real issues.

  • Write to The Ragged Edge

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