Friday, February 6, 2015
The Murphy Institute has posted on line videos of two recent programs that might make great resources for anyone who might want to inject some Catholic perspectives into a class on the topics of just wage, family leave policies, or the role of amicus briefs at the Supreme Court. As an added bonus, two of the speakers are MOJ'ers.
One is a program in the Murphy Institute's "Hot Topics: Cool Talk" series: Just Wages: Catholic Social Thought and Economic Perspectives. It features MOJ'er Susan Stabile and David O. Vang, UST professor of Finance, both applying Catholic social teachings to policy questions like raising the minimum wage, and both coming up with different prudential conclusions.
The second is a panel on the Young v. UPS case recently argued in front of the Supreme Court, in which a part-time UPS driver challenged UPS's refusal to accommodate the lifting restrictions her doctor recommended during her pregnancy, claiming a violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The panelists include two UST School of Law professors, MOJ'er Thomas Berg and Teresa Collett, who served as counsel on an amicus brief filed for the case in support of Peggy Young, by a large coalition of pro-life groups. The other panelists were Sara Gross-Methner, UST's General Counsel, and Melissa Raphan, Labor and Employment Department Head of the law firm of Dorsey & Whitney.
Both of these programs offer sophisticated, nuanced discussions of the issues at stake, and could be valuable supplements to courses touching on these topics.
Thursday, January 22, 2015
Friday, December 12, 2014
The University of St. Thomas is searching for a Director for its Center for Catholic Studies, which, among many other wonderful things, is the co-sponsor (along with UST Law School) of the Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy (which I co-direct). Here's the description of the enterprise of the Department & Center for Catholic Studies, from the job posting:
The Department and the Center for Catholic Studies comprise an integrated project at St. Thomas. While the Department focuses principally on degree-granting activities, the Center oversees the work of three major institutes and a quarterly journal. It also sponsors multiple lectures and faculty development programs. The director of the Center will be responsible for coordinating the work of these institutes as well as other forms of outreach within the university and the broader community. This will include work with benefactors and other development activities.
The Department offers an undergraduate major and minor as well as a graduate degree (M.A.) in Catholic Studies. In our teaching and scholarship, we are committed to the complementarity of faith and reason across all academic disciplines, to sustaining and developing the richness and breadth of the Catholic intellectual tradition, and to the general principles articulated in Ex corde ecclesiae. We seek candidates who share these commitments.
More details here.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Today is the first feast day of one of our newest saints, St. John Paul II. (And, in a happy coincidence, the wedding anniversary of not one, but two MOJ'ers: me and Rick Garnett.)
To celebrate, here are some relevant links:
- to the prayer to St. John Paul II issued by the Vatican at his canonization,
- to a number of past posts on his legacy,
- to some symposia on his work.
"Be not afraid!"
Friday, October 10, 2014
Two women in two publication outlets representing what one would assume to be diametrically opposing world views recently both decried the same sad fact: that 90% of fetuses diagnosed with Down Syndrome in the country are aborted. Check it out. See the post by Ki’tay Davidson, blogger on the Black Girl Dangerous Blog (describing its mission: as "to, in as many ways possible, amplify the voices, experiences and expressions of queer and trans* people of color"), entitled "Angry About the White Lesbians Suing for Having a Black Child: You're Missing Something". (Thanks to a former student, Bethany Jennings, for bringing it to my attention.) Then see the post by Denise Hunnell on ZENIT (describing itself as "an international, non-profit news agency staffed by a team of professionals and volunteers who are convinced that the extraordinary wisdom of the Pontiff and the Catholic Church can nourish hope, and assist all of humanity to find truth, justice and beauty"), entitled, "Down Syndrome Does Not Make Life Disposable: Why is Disdain Becoming More Acceptable?".
Is a consensus emerging?
Friday, October 3, 2014
A couple of weeks ago, out of the blue, I received an e-mail from a stranger about a book chapter I wrote over ten years ago about my prenatal diagnosis of my son’s Down Syndrome. Over the following days, I got a steady trickle of e-mails about the same piece, from people all over the world. I eventually traced it back to an edited version of the chapter printed on a website in Australia associated with the Sydney Daily Herald. They reprinted my piece in the wake of the furor over the Australian couple who hired a surrogate mother from Thailand to gestate twins for them, and refused to take the twin who was born with Down Syndrome (a beautiful boy named Gammy).
Most of the emails I got were from other mothers who had children with Down Syndrome, and most of the time we exchanged some variation of the sentiment: "Aren't we the lucky ones?" One of the moms followed up her initial e-mail with another that said, "My daughter with Down syndrome just got nominated for homecoming court!!! The world is definitely changing for the better.”
I certainly share her view that, with respect to day to day treatment of people with disabilities, the world (or at least the U.S.) is a better place now than it used to be. My work over this past year on this Disability Justice website confirmed that. The “Basic Legal Rights” section of the website tells the story of the evolution of our fundamental civil rights laws to recognize the right of people with developmental disabilities to live with dignity in our communities rather than in segregated institutions, to be free from unnecessary restraints, to be educated in our public schools, to work, and not to be subject to involuntary sterilization or servitude.
But it can be discouraging to continue to see, even today, examples of how those basic rights continue to be ignored for the most vulnerable among us. The website was funded from a cy pres fund established in connection with a settlement reached by the Minnesota Department of Human Services of a lawsuit brought in 2009 (!!) on behalf of three men in a state-run residential facility for people with developmental disabilities. The plaintiffs claimed that “as a means of behavior modification, coercion, discipline, convenience and retaliation, . . . staff restrained plaintiffs using law enforcement-type metal handcuffs and leg hobbles for conduct as benign as spitting, laughing or hand-washing.” The judge in this case has had to appoint a Court Monitor to oversee implementation of the Settlement Agreement, and has now twice extended court’s jurisdiction over the case, in the face of the State’s continued failure to live up to its agreement. In his most recent order extending jurisdiction for another two years, just this September, U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank wrote: “Multiple admonitions to the DHS have been insufficient to secure effective action by the DHS to close the significant gaps between its stated intentions and actions. Continued implementation delays can no longer be tolerated. More importantly, the dignity, quality of life, and best interests of every Class Member and similarly situated individuals with disabilities hinge on fulfillment of the promises made by Defendants at the fairness hearing in this matter.”
The entire Disability Justice website is peppered with links to recent news reports of the continued disregard for the dignity and legal rights of people with disabilities. The story of the group of men with cognitive disabilities locked up nights in a vermin-infested building, released in the day to eviscerate turkeys for $65 a month reads like something from a Victorian horror novel, rather than a New York Times report about a situation uncovered in 2009 in rural Iowa. Equally heart-breaking are some of the other stories linked in the pages outlining the continued abuse and exploitation of people with cognitive disabilities, in the links at the bottom of this page.
October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. Let’s hope it brings more stories of beautiful children with Down Syndrome being nominated to homecoming courts, and fewer stories of beautiful children with Down Syndrome being rejected by their parents.
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
I just came across an interesting Call for Papers for the 15th Conference of International Consumer Law, to be held in Amsterdam next summer. The theme of the conferences is "Virtues and Consumer Law."
Proposals on the following possible topic areas are identified as being especially encouraged, presumably because they represent the "virtues" contemplated by the conference organizers. Setting aside some qualms I have about the very first one, this struck me as a very interesting list of 'virtues' in this particular field of law.
- Self-realization (in tourism, air travel or entertainment sector);
- Faith (in public and/or private enforcement of consumer law, in collective redress);
- Curiosity (in e-commerce, telecommunication sector or on innovation and consumer law);
- Compassion (towards vulnerable consumers, in medicine or in clinical trials);
- Frugality (in the banking sector or in financial contracts);
- Fairness (against unfair commercial practices and/or misleading advertising, against unfair contract terms, in protection of SMEs, through good faith and fair dealing);
- Trust (through data protection, on privacy and security issues, through product safety and/or product liability, from behavioural economics perspective);
- Forgiveness (through mediation or ADR);
- Self-development (through education, through services, through consumer sale contracts);
- Hope (against overindebtness, through clean-slate doctrine, by way of insurance).
Friday, June 13, 2014
I just got an email from the Jérôme LeJeune Foundation reminding me that today would have been the 88th birthday of Servant of God Jérôme LeJeune. In 1958, Dr. LeJeune discovered that Down syndrome is caused by an extra copy of the 21st chromosome; he later established the first specialized clinic for Down syndrome patients in Paris, and discovered the cause of cri-du-chat syndrome, 2 other trisomies, and helped us understand fragile X syndrome.
Dr. LeJeune was also passionately devoted to protecting the lives of the vulnerable subjects of his research. Among other things, he was first president of the Pontifical Academy for Life. His cause for sainthood is being postulated by the Abbey of Saint Wandrille in France.
In celebration of the life of the man some consider the patron saint of people with Down syndrome, I offer links to:
- a lovely "rare" interview with Dr. LeJeune in English (with an interesting account of the cost-benefit analysis of preserving the lives of people with Down Syndrome); and
- the website of what looks like a fantastic new movie featuring a young man with Down Syndrome, Produce . (Too bad it doesn't star Angelina Jolie... but I challenge you to watch the trailer and not try to find a local showing!)
Friday, May 30, 2014
... is my all-time favorite name for an advocacy group. Not Dead Yet is a "national, grassroots disability rights group that opposes legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia as deadly forms of discrimination against old, ill and disabled people. Not Dead Yet helps organize and articulate opposition to these practices based on secular social justice arguments. Not Dead Yet demands the equal protection of the law for the targets of so called “mercy killing” whose lives are seen as worth-less."
Two of their recent activities deserve our attention.
1. Co-authoring an amicus brief with the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, in a case challenging the University of Wisconsin Hospital Center’s alleged practice of counseling families of people with developmental disabilities to withhold care for treatable but potentially life-threatening medical conditions, such as pneumonia. (Disability Rights Wisconsin v. University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics). The complaint alleges that:
one thirteen-year-old child died of pneumonia and one adult was denied care after University of Wisconsin Hospital physicians advised families to withdraw antibiotics, nutrition, and hydration. When the child's regular caregivers objected to withdrawing treatment, UWHC physicians allegedly encouraged the family to have him transferred to the University of Wisconsin Hospital, where he was taken off of antibiotics, nutrition, and hydration, and transferred to hospice care. He died the next day.
In both cases, Disability Rights Wisconsin claimed, doctors allegedly based their determinations on their patients’ supposedly low quality of life as individuals with disabilities, and acted without the approval of the hospital ethics committee.
2. A comment letter filed in New York State, expressing concern about some aspects of a New York initiative to reduce unnecessary hospitalizations of Medicaid patients:
The comment letter claims that the Conversation Project makes it clear that the fear of living with a disability is what drives the seemingly innocuous decision-making process designed to steer people away from receiving care. The letter quotes several excerpts from the Starter Kit on the Conversation Project website as examples of how living with disability is discussed in a negative way that could lead people to conclude that disability is a fate worse than death and, thus, execute advance directives that reflect that assumption.
Friday, March 21, 2014