June 6, 2000
Dear Mr. Gleitsman:
I remain deeply opposed to any citizen activist or social justice award to Jack Kevorkian.
When I read about Kevorkian in the media, I was troubled by his actions. But I did not protest or speak out against what he was doing. As a disability rights activist and policy analyst, I did not see Kevorkian as “my issue.”
Then Diane Coleman and Stephen Drake of Not Dead Yet brought information and facts to my attention. Of Kevorkian’s over 100 victims, the majority were people with disabilities who were not terminally ill. I know enough about disability issues to understand that disabled persons represent a discriminated against minority and have been subject to the same forces that have oppressed other groups—limited opportunities and a lack of options, negative societal attitudes, internalized oppression.
The more I learned about Kevorkian, the more I realized that I could no longer remain silent on this issue. His own writings are chilling. He promotes a program of organ harvesting and medical experimentation on infants with disabilities, prisoners, and adults with chronic illnesses or disabilities. He believes that the elimination of these persons would “enhance the preservation of public health and welfare.”
Kevorkian is “my issue.” It is long past time to speak out against Kevorkian and anyone who would valorize him.
Enclosed please find a declaration, “People with disabilities are entitled to dignity and social justice: A statement in opposition to honoring Dr. Jack Kevorkian.” As you will note, the list of endorsers includes not only disability rights groups and advocates, but also people who have demonstrated a lifelong commitment to social justice and activism.
Also enclosed is a copy of the Center on Human Policy’s position statement on your award to Kevorkian: “`Death with dignity’ for people who are not dying?: The Gleitsman Foundation is wrong that Kevorkian stands for social justice.”
Everything I know about you and the panel of judges listed in your press release makes me believe that you attempt to bring good to the world and honor worthy social causes. You made a mistake in honoring Kevorkian.
If you or any member of the panel of judges would like to respond to the endorsers of the declaration, you can reply to me and I will make sure that all of them receive your response.
Steven J. Taylor, Ph.D.
Professor and Director
cc: Panel of judges listed in the Gleitsman Foundation’s press release:
Morris Dees, Jr.
Marian Wright Edelman
Stanley K. Sheinbaum
Endorsers of “People with disabilities are Entitled to Dignity and Social Justice”
For More Information:
- People with Disabilities are Entitled to Dignity and Social Justice: A Statement in Opposition to Honoring Dr. Jack Kevorkian
- “Death with Dignity” for People Who are Not Dying: The Gleitsman Foundation is Wrong that Kevorkian Stands for Social Justice
- Not Dead Yet, a national activist organization which opposes the legalization of physician-assisted suicide and places emphasis on the value of life.