Thursday, January 19, 2006

Comatose Mass. Girl Responds to Stimuli

By ADAM GORLICK, Associated Press Writer 2 hours, 25 minutes ago
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - Doctors say new tests are needed on a severely beaten 11-year-old girl, who officials said was responding to medical stimuli and breathing on her own a day after Massachusetts' highest court ruled the state had the authority to remove her from life support.

Denise Monteiro, a spokeswoman for the state's Department of Social Services, which has custody of Haleigh Poutre, said doctors will perform more tests "to see what the movements mean."
She would not say how Haleigh was responding or to what tests. The girl has been in a coma for four months and thought to be in an irreversible vegetative state.
"There's a possible change in her condition," Monteiro said Wednesday. "She's having some responses."
Haleigh's stepfather, Jason Strickland, is charged with beating the girl and could face a murder charge if she dies. He has fought to keep her on life support but lost his appeal Tuesday in the Supreme Judicial Court, Massachusetts' highest court.
The court ruled that the social services department had the authority to remove the ventilator and feeding tube after doctors said the girl was in an irreversible vegetative state.
On Wednesday afternoon, however, doctors told the social services agency that Haleigh's condition had changed, Monteiro told the Boston Globe in its Thursday editions. She said Haleigh was breathing on her own and the agency had no immediate plans to remove her feeding tube.
One of Strickland's lawyers said Wednesday he wants more time to decide whether to bring the case before a federal judge.
"This is exactly the point we were trying to make. What's the rush? Just give her a chance," attorney John Egan said. "Medical science is not that certain. We would hope the whole process will slow down, and everyone will step back and end the compulsion to end her life."
Haleigh's doctors have said her brain stem is damaged and she would die within a few days without a feeding tube.
Some patients with severe brain stem injuries may partially recover from a persistent vegetative state, but they rarely recover fully enough to communicate, feed themselves and live ordinary lives, Dr. Steve Williams, chief of rehabilitation medicine at Boston Medical Center, told the Globe. But he said recovery is more likely with children than adults.
"There's more plasticity to their brain. There's potentially other areas of the brain that can take over," he said.
Haleigh's aunt and adoptive mother, Holli Strickland, also was charged with assault but was found dead less than two weeks later alongside her grandmother in a possible murder-suicide.
The girl's biological mother, Allison Avrett, had supported removing Haleigh from life support. She said she met with state officials and doctors Wednesday but would not comment on reports of her daughter's responses.
Along with deciding that Jason Strickland has no say in Haleigh's medical care, the state's highest court also denied his request to unseal court documents related to Haleigh's life support.
The documents were not made public because of confidentiality laws. That has led to some concerns that the social services agency is making life-and-death decisions without any outside review.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

FYI: IDEA Experts Expense Case Before the Supreme Court

Recently, the Supreme Court decided that parents of children with disabilities have the burden of demonstrating their child's needs, which we all know is screwed up because most people don't exactly have cash on hand to get lawyers and experts to advocate for their kid. Yesterday, the Court agreed to hear the case of a LaGrangeville, NY family who won an IDEA lawsuit...but weren't awarded money to pay for their expert witnesses. Should the Court award expert costs to the family, under the IDEA? Read about the case at The Poughkeepsie Journal.
Call for Campaign Ideas

What issues do you feel FRIDA should concern itself with? We're looking for your ideas and expertise. Reproductive choice? Parents' rights? Memorializing fighters/heroes in the disability rights movement? Jobs for people with disabilities? Educating "progressive" groups about disability rights? What is pressing to YOU? Please respond by commenting or e-mailing
Update on Johnson Case

We continue to await a public announcement regarding the status of the Kirsten Johnson case. As mentioned previously, the proceedings are sealed. We hope that the outcome will be favorable for Ms. Johnson.

Nevertheless, FRIDA continues to feel ongoing concern for those people with disabilities who are prevented from making their own reproductive choices. If a person has communicated their desires concerning reproductive choice, then that person's wishes should be respected.

What you can do: keep an eye to the media for similar cases reported around the world. It is difficult to take action on this issue as it is a private one, but we must educate ourselves in order to educate others. If you have ideas on taking action on this issue, please alert FRIDA asap.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


We have learned that George W. Bush will be speaking at the Chicago Hilton & Towers, 720 S. Michigan Avenue, on Friday, January 6th. We plan on protesting there beginning @ 11 AM, but are providing the full info we have so that people can plan whatever creative protests they choose.

In typically cowardly fashion, Bush will be speaking before a hand-picked audience -- only members of the elite Economic Club of Chicago and selected guests will be allowed the "privilege" of paying $125 to hear W in the Hilton's International Ballroom. Members of the Club are being told to show up at 10 am, presumably for security clearance. Doors of the Ballroom open at 11 am, with a luncheon at noon.We invite you to join the Gay Liberation Network, Chicago Area CodePINK, HammerHard Media Works and other individuals and organizations to PROTEST against the President:11 AMFriday, January 6thChicago Hilton & Towers720 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago ,,

I hope to see more Frida activist there.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Johnson Case Update

I was informed by Equip for Equality today that the Johnson court proceedings are sealed and sensitive, so all we can do is wait until Judge Riley makes his decision.

When we do hear what the final decision is, let's make sure people know about it! If he rules in favor of Kirsten Johnson, send letters of congratulation to the media and the disability community. If he rules against, let's get the word out. The important thing is to spread the word as quickly and as far as possible, to make our response known. That's what FRIDA is for.

FRIDA will post more info as it comes up. Good luck to Kirsten and her attorneys as they pursue this important case.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Disability Presence at the Johnson Ruling Thursday, January 5

The court case of Kirsten Johnson has concerned Chicago activists for several months now. To learn more about the case, see the links in the right sidebar.

Judge James Riley has ordered a gynecologist to testify on January 5 on the most appropriate method of birth control for Johnson. If the gynecologist recommends permanent sterilization, and Riley decides to go with that recommendation, they will disregard Johnson's expressed desire to be able to have children.

The controversy here is not over birth control or sterilization per se. Millions of people with and without disabilities have made the decision either to use birth control or get sterilized, as a matter of personal choice. Instead, the issue is whether the court will respect Kirsten Johnson's basic human right to make her own reproductive choices, or give that right to her guardian.

The gynecologist is set to to testify Thursday, January 5 at 55 W. Washington. The disability community needs to demonstrate its concern. For those who would like to join FRIDA activists in a rally at Daley Plaza, we will be meeting at the Picasso sculpture. We will post the exact time in the next 24 hours.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Why 2005 Was a Year of Shame...Could FRIDA Make 2006 Better?

Here in Chicago, 2005 looked like a fairly good year for disability rights. We've got a CIL with connections and a new building slated to open in late 2006, we've got well-known disability advocacy groups in the area, we've got an annual Disability Pride Parade and heck, this year we're going to have a disability arts festival. We've got a lot of good women advocates with disabilities around town and some good programs for girls with disabilities. i.e., the Empowered Fe Fes and the RIC M&Ms.

That's nice. all were watching the news in 2005, right?

People around the world are still killing women and girls with disabilities who they believe to be "suffering." Remember how Terri Schiavo was starved to death in March?

In New Zealand, an immigrant was suspected of trying to kill his Deaf daughters in a car accident. New Zealand does not allow people with disabilities to become citizens. Somebody, somewhere, assumed the family would be better off without them...

An Illinois nursing home employee raped and impregnated a young female resident, whose mother took her new grandchild home in August. The female resident has lived with her sister in nursing homes since she was a child and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Hurricane Katrina devastated the lives of countless women with disabilities, both in nursing homes and in the community. Remember how wheelchair users being airlifted out of the area had to leave their wheelchairs behind? And remember spotting folks with disabilities either dead or at the point of death at the Superdome?

Forced sterilization came back in the spotlight this year with the case of Kirsten Johnson, a young woman with a TBI who has stated that she would like to be able to have children. Instead, she is fighting her guardian in court for the right not to be permanently sterilized.

Jerry's Orphans staged a brave confrontation with Jerry Lewis at his November book signing at the Chicago Public Library. The rage and abuse directed at our activists there, especially the women, demonstrated a particularly ugly side of human nature. The abuse came not only from Jerry but from audience members as well.

Oh, and 2005 was the year Million Dollar Baby won a squad of Oscars... and we continue to have a disability unemployment rate of about 70%.

With these events and many more in mind, it's clear that 2006 is yet another year in which we *must* continue to actively resist, whether by letter writing, protest, lobbying, advocating, suing and so on. However we can make 2006 a new year...we can unite and take action as women with disabilities, and allies.

Together, FRIDA declares 2006 "open season" on gender and disability oppression.