Kill The Crip Night

On February 28, 2005 Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby swept the Academy awards, winning for Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director and, finally, Best Picture. Also Alejandro Amenabar's The Sea Inside was voted Best Foreign Film. Both films centered on sympathetic portrayals of the killing of quadriplegics.

In Million Dollar Baby, Hilary Swank plays Maggie a boxer who becomes a quadriplegic, is then placed in a nursing home, loses her legs to massive bed sores, and finally talks Eastwood who plays her trainer Frankie into killing her as an act of final compassion. With the whole gamut of movie critics from every major and minor newspaper across the nation celebrating the movie and playing off the murder of Maggie as a compassionate act of friendship and loyalty, it cannot under-cut the final message which makes it clear that Hollywood considers- it better to be dead than to be faced with having to live the rest of life with a high level disability such as quadriplegia. The movie viewing population which tends to praise Hollywood's image making opinion, cried and shed tears over the outcome of "Million Dollar Baby" quietly agreeing with Eastwood's conclusion muttering as they strolled out to their able bodied lives "Ya, I wouldn't want to live like that either." They would never even second guess the murder of Maggie or that she could live happily overjoyed at having another chance at life, like myself and many quadriplegics around the world.

So where does that leave the millions of us who already have disabilities, who already have had to struggle lifetimes against systematic discrimination, insurance companies and government agencies bent on denying us the basics necessary for survival; in three words mad as hell. And why shouldn't we be when in every state budget cuts affect money set aside for alternatives to institutionalization while the President's proposed budget wants to make permanent dividend tax breaks for the wealthiest 1% of Americans, slashing programs for the veterans and poor. As many of us across the country struggle to manage the impact these cuts will make upon our lives, thousands of people returning from Iraq with lifelong impairing disabilities will be pressed by the system they just fought to defend.

Here in Georgia 116 of us are fighting a proposed cap of the Independent Care Waiver Program which Governor Purdue wants to top out at $36,500, the cost of one year of care in the cheapest nursing homes in the state. This cap would mean there would never be any upward mobility within the program and in turn would effectively bar high level quadriplegics especially vent dependent individuals from ever receiving services which would adequately cover their needs. This would also set a level of care which may put at risk those who do receive hours from the program.

So instead of setting up a network which takes care of people, enabling people to return to independence through inter-dependence; the government sets up a system in which others profit from the warehousing of individuals in spaces which segregate us/them from the rest of society. The kind of care received in some of these places has called on the state to fine for abuse the same nursing homes the state rewards for keeping the cost of care down to a minimal per individual. I have already documented these abuses in my article "Right To Dignified Life" available at my website

In that article I cover the story of Carol Carr who watched her husband and 3 sons suffer immeasurably from Huntington's disease but more than that from the care they received while committed to Sunbridge Care and Rehabilitation Center located in Griffin, Georgia. She was mentally exhausted from years of watching the nursing home neglect her loved ones. James Scott, said his mother "shouldn't have had to go down there every day, changing them (Michael and Andy) and doing the work for the nursing home. It seemed like every time one of us went down there, one of them was just sitting there in pee. We kept having problems with the nursing home, getting them to change their bed linens. We had a big fight with them two weeks ago, trying to get them to help. They left them in there soaking wet," he said. "We went down there Friday, and it was the same thing."

Family members expressed concern, knowing it was just a matter of time before she cracked from pressure and seeing no way out, fed up, and in desperate measure, Carol, went into the room holding her two sons in filth, beset by painful bed sores, and shot them in the face and the neck, before walking to the lobby where she sat down on a sofa awaiting to be arrested. One year before the fatal shooting Sunbridge, was cited as one of Georgia's most chronic violators of state staffing requirements. In 2000, inspectors found that the facility placed residents in "immediate jeopardy" by, among other things, failing to properly treat bedsores. In some cases, the staff was not even aware residents suffered from the sores, inspectors said. The federal government has imposed more than $100,000 in fines against the SunBridge-Griffin facility as a result of poor care, according to records from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Eighteen staff members were on duty at the 140-bed facility when the shooting occurred.

The kind of care received in a nursing homes has prompted many quadriplegics like Larry McAfee also from Georgia to fight for the right to die rather than live within the constraints of a nursing home environment. There are quadriplegics like myself living grand lives, lucky to have negotiated life while on a Waiting List to receive services through the Independent Care Waiver. Having survived those initial years of minimal care and ultimate struggle, I can speak from my own experience of coming up through the system with quadriplegia that it is the most difficult thing that the government can place on individuals who already have so much more to deal with. In an ideal situation initially when someone becomes injured, a person familiar with the system should inform the individual injured as well as family members, of all the programs available to aide the individual and their families to take control of their lives again, to become as whole as possible again, without the unnecessary struggle the government imposes through institutional bias.

Nationally, 85% of the long term care Medicaid budget goes to warehousing people in nursing homes or institutions. Given a choice most of the 2.5 million people warehoused in nursing homes or institutions would love to live in their own homes and receive services in the community where they can be an active part of their families and communities lives. Nobody wants to live in a nursing home. That one fact has been the reason for many people with high level disability to seek out help in terminating their lives. However, I would wager that should the system have been set-up to immediately assist individuals and families to deal with the initial trauma and then through different programs restore them to inclusion and independence, showing them disability is a natural part of living life sometimes; the thought of suicide would never have been more than a passing phase.

Instead back to reality, Governor Purdue is willing to help, so long as it does not cost more than what they would spend to place us in a nursing home like Sunbridge. The image-makers in Hollywood promote people with disabilities as incapable of living differently, happily, wholesomely with disability. Instead, they portray us as better off dead and good riddance. In rewarding Eastwood they spit in the face of every person alive with disability which has wanted desperately to live even if it meant using a wheelchair or depending on a machine to breathe. And while Hollywood cheers Eastwood for taking out to pasture the destitute little cripple, Judge Greer has sentenced Terri Schaivo to death for the 3rd time by Okaying the removal of her feeding tube, on which she depends for food and nourishment. In their second attempt to kill Terri, she endured 6 days of forced denial of food and liquids before an emergency session of Florida legislatures met and passed "Terri's Law" saving her life. They do not even allow such cruel and unusual punishment to be administered to the evilest of death row inmates.
Even with overwhelming circumstantial evidence, Judge Greer sides with the hearsay of Michael Schiavo, a husband that has already fathered two children by another woman. Michael claims that Terri sometime long ago in passing conversation said that she would never want to live with a disability and that she would rather die instead of having to go through life like that. He says he loves her so much that he must see this through, that he must fight all these years to have Terri perish because he wants to see her wishes fulfilled. I state in my 3rd book, I think he's desperate to cover something up as stated by Michael Baden, a world-renowned forensic pathologist with over 40 years experience as a medical examiner, who too challenges the official version of early events in Terri's case, providing her parents with powerful ammunition in their battle to save her from her court-ordered starvation death.
They say that Terri is in a 'persistent vegetative state' but if you watch videos of her with her mother and father, she most definitely responds to stimulus and tries to interact as best she can. Her mother and father have been fighting for years just to have her released to their custody, but Judge Greer and the Florida Courts have consistently denied their request siding with the powerful right-to-die groups and lawyers that came out of the woodwork to aide Michael in his quest to destroy Terri.

In a reality where disability benefits and programs are being slashed, Social Security is about to be raped and incurring a disability means life in a crappy piss smelling nursing home, Hollywood support of euthanasia fits right in. Deny us any way to live in our own homes as part of the collective community, sentence us to death by starvation, and then portray through film that it is better for us to die than live with disability, and perhaps you get public support for the euthanasia agenda about to be tried in the United States Supreme Court through Gonzalez vs. Oregon. Soon if legislated a whole population of really expensive tax hoarding people, can be quietly off-ed as long as there is no family member or witness available to complain enough to deny physicians their possible new executive right to euthanize someone considered worthless anyway. Besides look how many people came out in defense of Robert Latimer even volunteering to serve some of his time for him, after he murdered his 12 year old daughter just because she had cerebral palsy.

Now is it any wonder that people with disabilities are a lot pissed about many things like Million Dollar Baby portraying murder as compassion, the long term care bias of our state and nation, Judge Greer's decision against Terri, or the many things other things discriminating against people with disabilities. ADAPT has been telling government suits in charge of the current bias for a long time, 'hey what we are trying to do to make things better for us as a population concerns you too. What we do now is laying the groundwork for yourself, your loved ones, and your family.' I think Georgia state legislators understand better now that I have faxed to them the story of Louisiana Secretary of State Fox McKeithen, who now finds himself in the fight of his life, having incurred a C3-4 cervical injury as a result of a fall in his home on February 16, just a few weeks ago. Doctors say that he is paralyzed from the neck down and will be vent dependant, just like Christopher Reeves and many of the people that Governor Purdue is trying to force off the waiver. Take one moment to see it from our side and then tell us, how is it you would feel.

To view the article about Fox McKeithen, go here: