There’s a Disability Rights Treaty. The United States Still Hasn’t Ratified it.

It opened for signature a decade ago. It’s time for the U.S. Senate to act.

Source: There’s a Disability Rights Treaty. The United States Still Hasn’t Ratified it.

On a Friday afternoon in July 2009, President Obama gave remarks in the East Room of the White House about the signing of an international human rights treaty to protect the rights of people with disabilities.

“Disability rights aren’t just civil rights to be enforced here at home; they’re universal rights to be recognized and promoted around the world,” Obama said. “And that’s why I’m proud to announce that next week, the United States of America will join 140 other nations in signing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the first new human rights convention of the 21st century.”

The treaty, known as CRPD, was inspired by U.S. leadership on disability rights and is modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, which protects individuals with disabilities against discrimination in areas such as employment, public accommodations, and transportation.

“This extraordinary treaty calls on all nations to guarantee rights like those afforded under the ADA. It urges equal protection and equal benefits before the law for all citizens; reaffirms the inherent dignity and worth and independence of all persons with disabilities worldwide,” Obama said.

CRPD opened for signature 10 years ago today — and as the committee that monitors CRPD implementation meets in Geneva right now to consider reports from eight countries, it’s a good reminder that the United States isn’t one of them. Despite Obama’s signature nearly eight years ago, the treaty — ratified by 172 countries — still awaits U.S. Senate ratification.

In December 2012, a Senate vote (61–38) fell five votes short of the two-thirds majority required to adopt an international treaty. In July 2014, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced the treaty (12–6) — but the full Senate never took a vote.

At a time when the United States has a president who mocked (while campaigning) a reporter with a disability, when the U.S. Secretary of Education is a threat to children with disabilities, and when the current U.S. Supreme Court nominee has repeatedly ruled against students with disabilities and who’s demonstrated a troubling approach to the rights of people with disabilities, it’s easy to feel discouraged about the state (and future) of disability rights.

But ratifying CRPD represents an opportunity to take bipartisan action and stand with the rest of the world in advancing the civil and human rights of people with disabilities everywhere. And it’s an opportunity to continue our nation’s tradition of advancing important human rights protections, as we did with the Rehabilitation Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the ADA, and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 — all signed by Republican presidents.

Disability rights are civil and human rights. Now, a decade after the treaty opened for signature, it’s time to finally make a global commitment to protecting disability rights by ratifying it.

Study Finds Medical Procedures Violating the Civil Rights of People with Disabilities: Stunting Growth, Removing Body Parts with No Judicial Review

Study Finds Medical Procedures Violating the Civil Rights of People with Disabilities: Stunting Growth, Removing Body Parts with No Judicial Review

Washington, DC – 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.

Download the executive summary and recommendations.

View the report webpage here

Additional References

Burkholder, Amy. “Disable girl’s parents defend growth-stunting decision.” CNN. com 13 March, 2008. pillow.angel/index.html.

Caplan, Arthur, Ph.D. “Commentary: Is ‘Peter Pan’ treatment right?” MSNBC. com 05 January, 2007.

Dahlstrom, Linda. “Doctor at crux of stunting debate kills self.” 11 October, 2007.

Diekema, Doug, The Case of Ashley X, NWABR Ethics in Science Online Course, 2007.

Gibbs, Nancy. “Pillow Angel Ethics.” Time 07 January, 2007. http://www.time. com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1574851,00.html.

Gibbs, Nancy. “Pillow Angel Ethics, Part 2.” Time 09 January, 2007.,8599,1574851,00.html.

McDonald, Anne. “The other story from a ‘Pillow Angel’.” Seattle Post- Intelligencer 17 June, 2007. opinions/319702_noangel17.html.