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Medical Procedures Violating Civil Rights

Study Finds Medical  Procedures Violating the Civil Rights of People with  Disabilities

In a first of its kind study, the  National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) determined that performing certain  medical procedures or withholding life sustaining treatment in non-terminal  situations without judicial review violates the civil rights of people with  disabilities.

The initial catalyst for the report is the so-called  Ashley Treatment which received worldwide attention 5 years ago.  Ashley  was a six-year-old child with developmental and physical disabilities whose  growth was stopped through estrogen treatments and whose uterus and breast  buds were removed. The intent of this treatment was to keep her permanently  small and child-like. NDRN believes this practice is spreading  worldwide.

“The thought of doctors and guardians, together, deciding to  remove the body parts and stunt the growth of a child based on assumptions  about their awareness and quality of life is shocking and disgusting,” said  NDRN’s executive director, Curt Decker

Further investigations by the  nation’s federally mandated Protection and Advocacy agencies, which NDRN  represents in Washington, DC, have uncovered other cases in which medical  treatment and even basic food and water are being denied to individuals with  disabilities during minor illnesses with the intent of letting the illness  progress until death.

“In one case, the parents of a 13-year-old boy  with a developmental disability refused to allow him access to antibiotics so  that the cold he had would progress to pneumonia.  They got their wish  and the boy died,” said Decker.

“Every person is born with civil  and human rights and an inherent dignity,” continued Decker.  “The  reality that this is happening in the United  States is anathema to the core values that we as Americans say we hold. That it is happening to those unable  to use their own voice is even worse.  This report is meant to start the  conversation about how society can and should make medical decisions that  uphold the constitutional rights of all people
with disabilities.”

The  report, Devaluing People with Disabilities: Medical Procedures that Violate  Civil Rights, puts individuals with disabilities at the center of  discourse.  It reviews the facts of Ashley X, as a case study and presents a continuum of similar experiences and treatment of individuals with  disabilities within a context of medical decision making that devalues them as  people and discriminates against them based on their disability.

The report explores the conflict of interest that medical decision making may present between a parent and their child.  It describes the vital role  that the legal and judicial systems have in ensuring that the civil and human  rights of individuals with disabilities are protected regardless of their  severity and in contrast to opinions regularly expressed in the medical and  ethics community.

Finally, the report presents a series of  recommendations for how the legal and medical systems at a local, state and  national level, including protection and advocacy agencies, ethics committees,  institutional review boards, and the courts can perform critical “watch-dog”  functions to ensure that the human and civil rights of persons with  disabilities are protected.

Read the full report at

Download  the executive summary and recommendations at>
View the report webpage here

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