The following is a letter TASH signed on to in response to an episode of the Dr. Phil Show that presented a dangerous and incomplete view of euthanasia inflicted upon individuals with disabilities.
May 29, 2012
Dr. Phil McGraw
Dr. Phil Show
5482 Wilshire Boulevard #1902
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Dear Dr. Phil:
The undersigned organizations are sending this letter in response to the April 13, 2012 segment of the Dr. Phil Show which presented the idea that parents should be able to euthanize their children who have intellectual disabilities. This outrageous proposal was portrayed in such an extremely unbalanced manner as to amount to a promotion of such a deadly proposition.
The show centered on Annette Corriveau, who has two adult children who have a progressive genetic condition called Sanfilippo syndrome. The show opened with a brief introduction of Corriveau, followed by an interview of her conducted by one of the producers. Over the course of the opening which took more than half of the segment, viewers were shown and/or told the following:
• Video of Corriveau’s two children from typical childhood to recent pictures as adults with disabilities;
• Depiction of intellectual and physical disabilities developed as a result of the condition;
• Discussion of the changes in their appearance as they got older, implying that their “not normal” appearance is tragic;
• The fact that Corriveau institutionalized both children when they were young.
• Video of one of Corriveau’s visits: she reported visiting them every two months, but doesn’t touch them, because they don’t react to her.
Nothing about other aspects of the lives of Corriveau’s adult children is presented, such as whether or not they react to staff people they see every day. After the opening, Dr. Phil, you engaged in dialogue with Corriveau, admitted not knowing what the two adults would want but also said that you wouldn’t want to live “like that.”
The second guest in the segment was attorney Geoffrey Fieger, who defended Jack Kevorkian, the assisted suicide and euthanasia advocate who claimed to have assisted the deaths of about 130 people. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, over two-thirds of Kevorkian’s victims were people with disabilities who were not terminally ill. During this recent segment, Fieger argued that a health care guardian’s right to consent to or refuse medical treatment should be extended to include active euthanasia such as a lethal injection. He asserted that what Corriveau wants is perfectly reasonable and merciful and that existing law against this is stupid.
The third ‘guest’ was a woman identified only by her first name – ‘Ruthi’ – who was described as having four birth children and three step children, three of whom were described as having “special needs.” Ruthi spoke from the audience, rather than on stage like Ms. Corriveau. There were no videos of Ruthi’s children. She was appalled at the idea of killing people with intellectual disabilities, but was given no more than a minute to speak.
Finally, Dr. Phil, you asked for a show of hands from the audience – how many agree that Corriveau should be able to “mercifully” kill her kids? It should be no surprise that an audience who sat through such a one-sided presentation would vote about 90% in favor of Corriveau and her desire to euthanize her two adult children.
Every show is followed online by a feature called “Dr. Phil Uncensored.” The one for the show “Deadly Consequences” features you and your staff expressing surprise over the audience vote and congratulating yourselves that “all the arguments were brought to the table” and that “we got both sides out”. Nothing could be further from the truth.
This program was a horrific assault on people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. By conveying social acceptance and approval of active euthanasia of individuals with disabilities by their family members, the segment threatens their very lives. People with disabilities are reportedly twice as likely to be abused as their nondisabled peers. It is grossly irresponsible that the Dr. Phil Show aired a segment that further promotes any form of violence against a group already subject to discrimination, ridicule and gross devaluation. The idea that people with disabilities are “better off dead” is deeply offensive and cannot be tolerated.
The undersigned call upon you and the Dr. Phil Show to publicly apologize for the “Deadly Consequences” segment and to give equal time to individuals with intellectual disabilities and organizations advocating their equal rights. We also call upon the Dr. Phil Show’s sponsors to become part of the solution by joining us in this demand. Please direct responses to Stephen Drake, Research Analyst for Not Dead Yet, at firstname.lastname@example.org and he will facilitate further communications to address this matter.
American Association of People with Disabilities
American Congress of Community Support and Employment Services
Autistic Self Advocacy Network
Autism National Committee
Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Government
Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF)
Disabled Queers in Action
Families Against Restraint and Seclusion
Hearing Loss Association of America
Little People of America
National Association of County Behavioral Health & Developmental Disability Directors
National Association of the Deaf
National Autism Association
National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery
National Council on Independent Living
National Disability Rights Network
National Organization of Nurses with Disabilities
National Rehabilitation Association
Not Dead Yet
Our Children Left Behind
Parent to Parent USA
Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE)
TASH: Equity, Opportunity, and Inclusion for People with Disabilities Since 1975
The Arc of the United States
World Enabled/Pineda Foundation for Youth
State and Local Organizations
AccessABILITY (Indianapolis, IN)
Access Alliance of Michigan
Access Center for independent Living (Dayton, OH)
Access Living (Chicago, IL)
Adams County Board of Developmental Disabilities (West Union, OH)
All About Developmental Disabilities (Georgia)
American Council of the Blind of Maryland
Association for Independent Living of Utah
Bay Arenac Behavioral Health Authority (Bay City, MI)
Bender Consulting Services, Inc. (Pittsburgh, PA)
Center for Disability Rights (Rochester, NY)
Center for Independent Living of Central PA, Inc.
Center for Independent Living of South Florida, Inc. (Miami, FL)
Center for Self Determination, Inc. (Reno, NV)
CIL Disability Resource Center (Pensacola, FL)
Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition
Disabilities Caucus of Georgia Democratic Party
Disability Achievement Center (Largo, FL)
Disability Rights and Resources (Charlotte, NC)
disAbility Solutions for Independent Living, Inc. (Daytona Beach, FL)
Disabled Citizens Alliance for Independence (Viburnum, MO)
Georgia Council On Developmental Disabilities
Grassroots Advocacy Partnership (Utah)
Green Mountain Self-Advocates (Vermont)
Illinois Valley Center for Independent Living (LaSalle, IL)
IndependenceFirst (Milwaukee, WI)
Independent Living Resource Center, Inc. (Santa Barbara, CA)
Information on Disability for Empowerment, Advocacy and Support
Liberty Resources, Inc. (Philadelphia, PA)
LIFE Center for Independent Living (Bloomington, IL)
Living Independence for Everyone (LIFE), Inc. (Savannah, GA)
Living Independence Network Corporation (LINC) (Boise, ID)
MetroWest Center for Independent Living (Framingham, MA)
Michigan Disability Rights Coalition
Middle Georgia Center for Independent Living, Inc. (Disability Connections)
Minnesota Association of Centers for Independent Living
Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities
Mountain State Centers for Independent Living (West Virginia)
New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addictions Agencies, Inc.
Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council
Prairie Independent Living Resource Center, Inc. (Hutchinson, KS)
REACH Resource Centers on Independent Living (Fort Worth, Dallas, Denton & Plano, TX)
Regional Center for Independent Living (Rochester, NY)
Second Thoughts (Massachusetts)
SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin
Self-Advocacy Association of New York
Self Reliance Center for Independent Living (Tampa, FL)
SKIL Resource Center (Kansas)
Statewide Independent Living Council of GA, Inc.
Stavros Center for Independent Living (Amherst, MA)
Suncoast Center for Independent Living, Inc. (Sarasota, FL)
Tennessee Association of Microboards and Cooperatives
Tennessee Disability Coalition
The Arc of Illinois
The Whole Person (Kansas City, MO)
Vermont Center for Independent Living
Virginia Association of Community Services Boards
Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities