Disability rights groups outraged by Dr. Phil segment

More than 30 disability rights advocacy groups, led by Not Dead Yet, signed a letter in response to a recent Dr. Phil episode that asked whether parents should have the right to euthanize their children if they have severe disabilities.

Dr, Phil Photograph
Dr. Phil

The episode, which ran April 13, featured Annette Corriveau, a mother of two institutionalized adults with Sanfilippo syndrome. Corriveau contends that the children have lost all ability to communicate and that she should have a right to end her childrens’ lives. With the backing of attorney Geoffrey Fieger, who represented the well known assisted suicide and euthanasia advocate Jack Kevorkian (Dr. Death), Dr. Phil supported Corriveau’s position, as did the majority of the people sitting in the audience.

In the letter, the advocacy groups slammed Dr. Phil and called for him to publicly apologize for airing the episode, which they described as one-sided and offensive.

“This outrageous proposal was portrayed in such an extremely unbalanced manner as to amount to a promotion of such a deadly proposition…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,” the letter stated.

The Arc also sent a letter to Dr. Phil, saying that the episode inappropriately characterized the two individuals with disabilities inappropriately because there was no mention of the opinions of their caregivers or medical experts.

“Their perspective, and that of advocates in the disability rights movement, would have added balance to the show,” the letter stated. “Your viewers need to understand the history of oppression of people with severe disabilities in the country and how far we’ve come. The viewer has no idea of the dark history of the eugenics movement in the United States and globally because you didn’t show it.”