September 13, 2014
Board of Directors
Disability Rights Legal Center
800 S. Figueroa St., Suite 1120
Los Angeles, CA 90017
Dear Board members, Disability Rights Legal Center:
We understand you have hired Kathryn Tucker as the new executive director of DRLC.
Many of the signatories to this letter have worked with DRLC for years, enjoyed our working relationship toward furthering disability rights, and appreciated the work of DRLC.
We wish to engage in dialogue with you about the serious concerns we have over Ms. Tucker’s work in her previous position at Compassion & Choices that has placed members of the disability community in significant danger.
As you probably know, many prominent disability rights organizations across the U.S. have taken formal positions opposing assisted suicide laws. The legalization of assisted suicide is a very serious problem, and is of the utmost importance to many in the disability community. Ms. Tucker’s actions have significantly and directly aided in establishing assisted suicide laws, and she has materially contributed to the efforts toward their further legalization, in state after state. While Ms. Tucker’s work on pain relief is laudable, it is overshadowed by her work toward the legalization of assisted suicide through her leadership role at Compassion & Choices.
As organizations many of which have partnered with DRLC in the past, and which hope to have productive collaborations with you in the future, we would be very troubled if the hiring of Ms. Tucker were seen as a message to the disability community—or to society at large—that the DRLC has taken, or may take in the future, an opposing position to that of the established disability community on the legalization of assisted suicide, isolating itself from its natural allies.
Recognizing the difficulties raised by this past work of Ms. Tucker, we hope you will engage with us in dialogue about this issue and how it might play out, if at all, during her tenure at DRLC.
If you are unfamiliar with the issue’s complexities or with how extensively it is misunderstood by the general public, we refer you to http://dredf.org/public-policy/assisted-suicide/ to learn more.
We suggest a teleconference with you—and, if you like, Ms. Tucker and/or other staff—to consider the above questions.
On behalf of the organizations and individuals who have signed on below, please communicate with Marilyn Golden, Senior Policy Analyst, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF), firstname.lastname@example.org, (510) 549-9339.
We look forward to hearing from you soon.
(Partial list of sign-ons, in alphabetical order)
• Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL)
• Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN)
• Boston Center for Independent Living (BCIL)
• Center for Disability Rights, New York State (CDRNYS)
• Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center – Tim Fox and Amy Robertson (CREEC)
• Communities Actively Living Independent & Free (CALIF) – Lillibeth Navarro, Executive Director
• Community Access Project, Massachusetts
• Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF)
• Duane French, a founding member of the Alaska and Washington Chapters of Not Dead Yet
• Steve Gold, Attorney
• Independent Living Center of Southern California (ILCSC)
• Little People of America (LPA)
• Virginia Knowlton Marcus, Executive Director, Maryland Disability Law Center*
• James D. McGaughey, JD, former executive director of the Connecticut Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities
• National Council on Independent Living (NCIL)
• National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery (NCMHR)
• Not Dead Yet (NDY)
• Regional Center for Independent Living, New York
• Stephen A. Rosenbaum, John & Elizabeth Boalt Lecturer, U.C. Berkeley*
• Second Thoughts Connecticut
• Second Thoughts Massachusetts
• Michelle Uzeta, former legal director, Disability Rights Legal Center
• World Institute on Disability (WID)
* For identification purposes only
[Editor’s Note: The Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund coordinated coordinated disability organizations that wanted to respond.]