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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Medical Mistreatment of People with Disabilities

Approved by the NCIL membership July, 2007

WHEREAS, historically people with disabilities have been treated as less than human by many segments of our society, including the medical community; and

WHEREAS, an example of this belief, is the use of people with disabilities in lethal and inhumane experiments by doctors in Nazi Germany, who murdered and forcibly sterilized hundreds of thousand people with disabilities during WWII; and 

WHEREAS, doctors in the United States have sterilized over 65,000 people with disabilities under state compulsory sterilization programs (in 33 states); have carried out numerous brutal treatments, such as therapeutic isolation and restraint, insulin shock therapy, sleep and sensory deprivation, euthanasia, electroshock and psychosurgery  (to name a few); have used pharmaceuticals to control behavior, as well as a person’s bodily functions (i.e. institutional use of birth control to time and regulate an woman’s menstrual cycle) and may force pharmaceuticals upon a person without their consent; and

WHEREAS, the recent, highly publicized case, of 6 ½ year old Ashley X’s in Washington State, whose uterus was removed (to prevent fertility), her breasts were excised (so they would not develop) and high doses of estrogen were administered (to limit her growth by prematurely fusing the growth plates of her bones); and

WHEREAS, these procedures were performed at the request of her parents and approved by the hospital’s ethics committee, for the sole purpose of convenience and making her more manageable.

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED: that NCIL opposes the use of inhumane medical procedures and experiments on persons with disabilities; as well as the use of medical procedures and pharmaceutical interventions performed solely for the “convenience” of a parent, guardian or institution staff.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: that NCIL and its membership believe that people with disabilities should be treated with dignity by the medical community and that the practice of medicine without respect of an individual’s human rights is an abuse of power and a violation of a person’s body and mind.


Marilyn Hammond, Utah

Cheryl Atwood, Utah

Deborah Lisa-Baker, Vermont

Sarah Wendell Launderville, Vermont

Dhiresha Blose, Vermont

Peggie Reyna, California

Mary Moore, Colorado

Lizzi McNeff, Oregon

Laurie Powers, Oregon

Joelle Brouner, Washington

Beata Karpinska, New York

Options for Independence, Utah

Vermont Center for Independent Living, Vermont

IndependenceFirst, Wisconsin

The Regional Research Institute at Portland State University, Oregon