Category Archives: television

Psychiatric Hospitals and Music Videos: Part 1

After reading Anna’s recent post on Janelle Monae’s ‘Tightrope’ video and how it “is a great example of how not to completely screw up representation(s) of disability,” I started remembering other music videos set in psychiatric hospitals. And then I started watching all these music videos!

One of the earliest I remember is Melissa Etheridge’s ‘Come to My Window.’

In the video (lyrics here), Juliette Lewis is in a bare room with a cot-like bed and a barred window. She wears a white tank top and white srub pants and has a white bandage around her left wrist. She paces, climbs, cries, scrawls on the walls and the floor. Intercut are shots of Etheridge, singing with an acoustic guitar and an old fashioned microphone. At times, the song stops and Lewis speaks/screams the lyrics in the bare room. At the end of the video the bandage comes off Lewis’ wrist and there is no cut or scar.

I feel kind of neutral about that one – I think the ending can be read either as “she was never crazy the whole time!” or as “she’s healing and going to be ok!” and both are somewhat problematic. But neither is it overtly offensive. For that, you have to look for N’Sync’s video for “I Drive Myself Crazy” (I bet you can guess where they’re going with this…)

The video (lyrics here) has segments of each of the band members with their girlfriends and then breaking up with them – inter cut with scenes of them in a psychiatric hospital, acting as stereotypically “crazy” as is possible. (Although wearing satin pajamas, inexplicably.) Clearly meant by the band to be a lighthearted and humorous video, the “joke” is that losing the girlfriend has been so traumatic that the band members have been rendered “crazy.”

Another video featuring psychiatric commitment as a result of losing a romantic partner is Missy Elliot’s “Teary Eyed.”

In the video (lyrics here), Missy Elliot breaks up with a boyfriend, follows him to a building where he is with a new girlfriend, and slashes the tires on his car, causing a horrible accident that kills him. She is sentenced in a court and goes to jail and then presumably to an institution for the “criminally insane.” There are several scenes in a stereotypical padded room, where Missy and sometimes backup dancers wear and dance in straitjackets. While this video certainly brings more seriousness to the subject, it’s hard to argue that it’s portrayal of people with mental illness was any more positive or accurate.

A video I have much more mixed emotions about is Bjork’s video for Violently Happy:

The song (lyrics here) is about the wild and overwhelming emotional exuberance that can go along with love and has long been a favorite of mine. But the video – featuring Bjork and other dancers shown individually in a stark padded room – seems to depict that emotion through the imagery of a psych hospital. I’m not entirely sure how to read this video – is it mocking or endorsing equating of the flush of love with psychiatric disorder? Why is everyone cutting or shaving their hair? – but overall it leaves me with a vaguely icky feeling. (Precise language, I know.)

I had to take a little break after watching those four. All of which depicted almost cartoonishly stereotypical “mental institutions,” with bare cots, padded rooms, and straitjackets. All of them drew parallels between psychiatric hospitalization and jail – the room in Ethridge’s video was bare like a jail cell with bars on the wall, the N’Sync boys were kept in line by guards, and both Bjork and Missy Elliot were straitjacketed in padded cells, Elliot having been sentenced there for her crimes. But none of this directly relates to any actual mental illnesses or disabilities. Instead, the videos co-opt the symbols and accessories to illustrate the extremity and depth of the singer’s emotions. And in all the videos it’s the same emotion being felt so extremely and deeply – love.

Thus concludes Part 1 of Psychiatric Hospitals and Music Videos! Check out Part 2 to see if these patterns continue!

Dr. Drew – Stop Policing Other People!

Dr. Drew enrages me. The way his whole empire is built on callous exploitation of the pain, suffering, and need of others makes me very suspicious of his motives and goals in treating people. But even more than that, his eagerness to observe people through tabloid reporting and unsubstantiated rumors and then make unfounded assumptions about whether they’re experiencing substance addiction or abuse issues and/or mental health issues is, frankly, repugnant.

He’s been targeting Lindsay Lohan recently, and has said some absolutely outrageous and unacceptable things about her in recent days. I saw this reported by the Onion AV Club and they respond so nicely I’m just going to quote them:

Dr. Drew Pinksy, of Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew, Sex Rehab With Dr. Drew, and Dr. Drew’s Ol’ Fashioned Healing Vapors & Hair Tonic, is obviously a great doctor. He can diagnose life-threatening drug addiction just by listening to unsubstantiated rumors. He knows which cameramen will help the most in each individual addict’s recovery. And he is great at uncovering and broadcasting an addict’s childhood trauma—which is the only reason anyone becomes addicted to anything ever.

In fact, Dr. Drew is such a great doctor, he diagnosed then officially cured Lindsay Lohan via an interview with the always reliable gossip website RadarOnline.

First, Dr. Drew detailed his recommended course of therapy for Lohan:

“If she were my daughter, I would pack her car full with illegal substances, send her on her way, call the police, and make sure she was arrested. I would  make sure she was not allowed to get out of jail. I would then go to the judge and make sure she was ordered to a minimum of a three year sobriety program.”

I’m sure Dr. Drew already emailed this interview to the head of development at VH1, because in addition to being a terrific treatment plan for an addict (and also a morally sound thing to do), Dr. Drew’s Celebrity Frame-Up & Jail For Addicts Featuring Dr. Drew would also make a great reality show.

But after pitching his new show/course of therapy for Lindsay Lohan, he added this:

“I would say it’s less than a 1% chance of her making the decision to go to rehab. I have said this many times before, I believe that Lindsay will make a wonderful sober person, someday, if she survives this. I absolutely wish no harm to her, but I just have a feeling that something awful is going to happen to her, like she is going to lose a limb. I hope Lindsay gets help before something terrible happens.”

Something terrible like having a celebrity doctor diagnose you on a gossip site, or tell you what you need to do, or plant drugs in your car then call the cops on you?

It is easy to imagine the same kind of “logic” and “help” being applied to someone with a mental illness. Dr. Drew might suggest calling the police and saying that an individual had threatened suicide – even plant a weapon or suicide note on them to be sure the police would take them in for psychiatric commitment. He would publicly judge and shame that person for not seeking what Dr. Drew considers to be appropriate and beneficial treatment and imply that if his proposed treatment plan isn’t followed, any harm that befalls the person is their own fault.

This is not ok. It is dangerous, and is unfounded judgments and shaming. And it is utterly inappropriate and unacceptable from a medical doctor.

Oh Canada: This week in Canada & Disability

It’s been an interesting week or so in Canada regarding issues around disability. “Interesting” here means hit and miss.

I could, for example, direct you to the coverage of the Paralymic Games, but that site appears to be inaccessible to screen readers. It’s very busy, and has a lot of flash on it. There’s an audio slide show – the first I’ve ever come across – but you need to download something in order to run the audio.

So, hit and miss there, I guess.

Of course, then we get this story: No sugar-coating for disability exhibit: Co-curator’s trip out west parallels struggle to overcome obstacles in Out from Under

For disability rights activist Catherine Frazee, the personal overlaps with the political even when she doesn’t intend it.

That happened with Frazee’s recent journey to Vancouver from Toronto for Out From Under, a unique exhibition on the social history of disability in Canada.

As one of its three curators, she felt it was important to be here for the exhibition’s opening during the Paralympic Winter Games.

Frazee, the director of Ryerson’s Institute for Disability Studies, can’t fly for medical reasons having to do with living with spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic neuromuscular disease characterized by the degeneration of the motor neurons. When she travels, she is accompanied by an attendant and Patricia Seeley, her life partner.

The only option for her was to take the train.

Frazee was willing to make sacrifices to travel out west, such as sleeping in her electric wheelchair. She can’t be separated from her wheelchair, which is uniquely customized to her body’s needs. At times, for example, she has to tilt it slightly back to help with her breathing.

When she contacted Via Rail, she was told that she and her wheelchair had to travel separately.

Of course she was. *headdesk*

The exhibit itself sounds amazing and I wish I could see it. But it’s telling to me that in my country, where politicians regularly tell me they really care about the needs of people with disabilities, it’s impossible for Catherine Frazee to travel to Vancouver. Ultimately, she and her partner traveled through the US, where the Americans with Disabilities Act, as poor as it may be, still required that there be train cars that Frazee be able to use.

Or another hit and a miss: Promoting rights of disabled new foreign policy focus: Cannon

Promoting the rights of disabled people around the world will become a key foreign policy focus for Canada, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said at the United Nations Thursday.

Cannon made the declaration after delivering Canada’s ratification of the world body’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Awwww. Isn’t that awesome?

Meanwhile our Prime Minister held a TalkCanada event that was inaccessible to blind or partially sighted people.

Yesterday morning Prime Minister Stephen Harper performed a first, by being the first Canadian Prime Minister to have his remarks streamed live through YouTube. Before and after the PM’s speech, and up until Sunday at 1:00pm ET, Canadians can login to the Talk Canada YouTUbe page to submit and vote on questions, which the PM will answer in another live stream on Tuesday.

As a completely blind Canadian and an Information and Communications Technology Accessibility Consultant (I help make information systems work for persons with disabilities), I take exception to the PM using technologies such as YouTube and Google Moderator (used for the questions and voting). These technologies were poorly accessible to me, and to other blind and partially sighted Canadians, including Derek Wilson who wrote about the barriers he faced. This is not the way that things need to be, it would have been very possible, should the PM have cared, to make the Talk Canada event easily accessible to a much wider range of Canadians, including the blind and visually impaired.

[I also have no idea if the actual videos will be subtitled, Signed, or a transcript provided.]

Oh, and Canada continues to refuse immigrants when family members have disabilities. The only ‘hit’ there is that we’re talking about it, I guess, since it’s been going on forever.

I’m frustrated. Politicians, business owners, school officials, everyone tells me that they really care about the needs of people with disabilities. They often do grand gestures: Ooh, we’ll show highlights from the Paralympic Games! We’ll agree that yes, we’re going to support the needs and rights of people with disabilities in other countries! We’re going to put in a Student Accessibility Services Office (because all people with disabilities on campus are students) and that will solve all the problems!

What we won’t do, apparently, is ensure that people with disabilities in Canada can get from Nova Scotia to Vancouver with minimal fuss and drama, like the currently non-disabled can. We won’t discuss how inaccessible politicians are to people with disabilities. We will express disdain that the laws in Ontario now require universities to be accessible to students before students spend months or even years self-advocating. We will approve bursaries for students purchasing equipment that helps them write their essays and do their school work in February – 6 months into the Academic year.

Oh Canada. Please do better.

Doctor Who and the Evil Wheelchair Users of Evil

Also see: Davros, Daleks, and Disability and Bloody Torchwood.

Contains minor spoilers for Doctor Who from “Voyage of the Damned” through to “The Next Doctor”.

I’ve been compiling a list of all the characters who are wheelchair users in New Who. For everyone who has no earthly idea what I’m talking about, I’m referring to British television show Doctor Who (which is well worth watching by the way) specifically the episodes airing since 2005 after a long hiatus. The show had, shall we say, not the world’s greatest history of representing disability up until that point. I’d noticed a trend of characters who are wheelchair users (or users of SF-ish devices meant to echo wheelchairs) in recent years, and some rather sinister commonalities. Here they are (though if I’ve forgotten any, do add them in comments):

  • Davros: The creator of the Doctor’s enemies, the Daleks. Evil as they come, wanting to destroy reality itself at the end of series 4!
  • Max Capricorn: The villain of “Voyage of the Damned,” who wanted to crash a ship into Earth and frame his former cruiseliner company for mass murder.
  • Mercy Hartigan: I can’t remember “The Next Doctor” so well, but seem to recall her being wired in a chair in the CyberKing towards the end, shortly before her death.
  • John Lumic from “Rise of the Cybermen” and “The Age of Steel”. Dying and desperate to stay alive, he invents the parallel universe version of Cybermen, kidnapping homeless people to experiment on and seeking to “upgrade” all of humanity. Cybermen convert him into one of them against his will.
  • Timothy Latimer: From “Human Nature” and “The Family of Blood”. A noble and brave young man who saves the day, we see him as a old man in a wheelchair towards the end of TFoB.
  • Colonel Hugh Eddison: From “The Unicorn and the Wasp”. He reveals himself to have been faking needing a wheelchair for many years in order to keep his wife at his side (presuming she’d do so out of obligation or pity, I guess).

As we can see, the trend with wheelchair-using characters in this show is that they’re evil and must die at the hands of our charming able-bodied hero. Of the two exceptions, one is a Faker™. The other is only shown in his wheelchair right at the end; he’s allowed no dialogue.

Doctor Who makes me sad because, as much as I love it, those running the show clearly have a fair bit of contempt (or contemptous indifference) regarding PWD. We’re represented very narrowly: when real, when having agency, wheelchair users (because disabled characters are always wheelchair users) are bitter villains. The very few disabled characters aren’t allowed to be anything other than caricatures. There’s nothing grand or beautiful or important or good about them, they just exist as plot points to help the story along or to be obstacles for the Doctor to overcome.

A program on disability rights in Australia

A couple of days ago, Australian investigative journalism television program Four Corners aired a story called Breaking Point. It covers some of recent Australian disability rights history, personal stories from many individuals and families, discussion of a proposed national disability support scheme, differences between the UK and Australian systems, all sorts of things. It’s rather long at the better part of an hour, but you may find it worth just dipping in, if only a little, particularly if you’re not familiar with disability rights in Australia.

From the program website:

The system of assistance for people with a disability in Australia is broken. Carers know it, charitable organisations know it and so do the governments. Now the federal government says something must be done. It’s holding an Inquiry, with the intention of creating a new and fairer system. It’s even considering a national disability insurance scheme. But will the system be reformed in time to save the families now at breaking point?

Here’s a transcript of the program.

You can access the program itself here as well as extended interviews, further reading and news highlights here.

Do check it out!

Pop Culture: The Good Wife & Disability

About two or three weeks ago, I finally got around to noting the existence of the show The Good Wife. And then I watched every episode I could, as quickly as I could, because wow is this show good.

It’s one part legal drama, one part family drama, and one part mysterious conspiracy theory drama. The Wikipedia summary is pretty good: “The storyline focuses on Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick, the wife of Peter Florrick (Chris Noth). Her husband has been jailed following a very public sex and corruption scandal. She returns to her old job as a litigator to rebuild her reputation and provide for her two children.”

Except the whole article somehow manages to skip over how feminist the show is. In the early episodes, Alicia has a male coworker who is pretty damn sexist to her, including talking down to her, ignoring what she says entirely, and acting like her being both older and a parent makes her not very smart. Later episodes have her pointing out how she keeps getting shunted aside to “hand hold” clients, which she admits is important but is curtailing her career. And these things are shown as being bad, not as being acceptable because, you know, woman.

The show is filled with interesting relationships between women as well. We’ve got Alicia’s relationship with both her investigator, Kalinda, and one of the managing partners, Diane. Both relationships are complicated by professional needs and the fact that they’re still working in a sexist office environment. Diane is involved in EMILY’s List, and there’s an implication that her “pet project” is looked down on by her male colleagues.

At home, Alicia’s mother-in-law has come in to help care for the kids while she’s working and Peter’s in jail, and their relationship is also complicated, with concerns about parenting and their different views of Peter’s prison sentence.

I just love this show. Love it.

But I’m not just talking about it here because it’s awesome. It also managed to (mostly) side-step some disability fail that I was expecting.

The rest of this is full of spoilers for Season 1, Episode 4, “Fixed”.
Continue reading Pop Culture: The Good Wife & Disability

For Cereal, Internet?

A periodic feature in which we highlight some of the more ableist posts and comments in the blogosphere – the things that made us throw up our hands and ask “FOR CEREAL???” *

Today’s edition: a post at Jezebel titled “Woman, Go Take Your Pills!”: Schoolgirls Respond To Samantha Bee’s Christmas Conspiracies. Which, already – are you for cereal, Jezebel? The post reviews a Daily Show segment in which Samantha Bee meets with schoolgirls and, in the tradition of the Daily Show, presents outlandish and absurd positions to them as serious arguments. For example, she tells them that she doesn’t believe that Obama was born in the United States. The humor in the segment is the shocked and outraged responses from the schoolgirls to these positions and arguments.

At one point in the segment, one of the schoolgirls tells Bee “woman, go take your pills.” Which is problematic for a whole slew of reasons – the assumption that irrational or absurd political arguments are a sign of underlying mental illness, the assumption that medication is an appropriate treatment for all mental illnesses, the assumption that bystanders have a right to dictate the treatment a person pursues or receives for a mental illness. But none of these problems seem to have occurred to Anna at Jezebel, who chose the phrase to title the piece.

And the immediate response of commenters wasn’t to push back against this ableism, or to explain why using such a phrase is problematic, but to embrace the phrase as their “new smackdown,” per boobookitteh, or celebrating the “straightforward verbal beatdown these girls delivered so awesomely,” per BillyPilgrimisnotmylover.

So I award a “FOR CEREAL?” to Jezebel for approving of the phrase and using it to title their post, and a second “NO REALLY, FOR CEREAL?!” to the commenters for enthusiastically embracing this offensive phrase as their new go-to insult.

*(Actually, what I say, and what I considered titling this, is “Are You Fucking Kidding Me With This Crap, Internet?” but I’m trying to use less salty language.)

Which Is Worse: Reality TV or the commentary on it?

I’d heard mentions recently of the show Hoarders, on A&E. (I’m not going to link to their site.) The show, from what I gather, is a series with episodes focusing on individuals who compulsively hoard possessions. I’ve never watched it and do not plan to, as I’m extremely uneasy about television shows that focus on people in crisis to, well, entertain other people. I have the same issues with Intervention (also an A&E show) and the Celebrity Rehab/Sober House/Sex Addicts shows with Dr. Drew. I understand that on some level, they could be useful or educational or contribute to diminishing stigma and demystifying therapy and counseling, but mostly it just feels like taking advantage of people who are dealing with addiction or disability.

This is especially true as the core of all reality tv is, of course, drama – so the shows focus on people in absolute crisis, at proverbial rock bottom, relapses and failures. And the drama is heightened when the person’s disability or addiction is as extreme as possible. So the Hoarders show focuses on people who are extreme hoarders, having lost friends and family because of their compulsions, not someone who has a drawer in the kitchen filled with old takeout menus. This extremely heightens the message that the person in the show is an “other,” a “freak,” to be gawked at.

And that’s the problem – even if I never watch these shows, there are still people who watch them and then talk or write about them. I’ve managed to avoid the worst of it, but commenter Penny, catastrophe discovered this “gem” at Jezebel and sent it my way as an example of the ableism at its extreme. It’s bad enough that before I go any further, I should warn you that some of the quotes are truly horrifying and you may not want to read them. We start off on a great foot with the title: “Sometimes, A Hoarder Just Can’t Be Helped.”

The very first sentence of the post informs us that the author found Augustine, the woman who is the focus of this episode of Hoarders, “frankly, very hard to empathize with.” Red flag! You are not watching this television show to determine whether the person with a disability is worthy of your empathy! Or rather, if you are, you should turn the tv off immediately. This is a real woman, a person, a human. The premise of the show, indeed the title of the show, indicates that she has a disability that has had a monumental effect on her life and functioning. If you are watching a show about her without empathy, then you’re just pointing at a sideshow freak.

The post then goes on to applaud the professional counselors who come to help Augustine, “who miraculously remain positive and chipper throughout the entire ordeal” even though there is stuff in the hoarded material that the author clearly considers to be super duper gross. But in the author’s eyes, Augustine’s biggest sin is not hoarding icky things, it is that she “has no remorse for what her actions have done to her family and her community … and absolutely no gratitude toward the people who are trying to help her stay in her home. She only blames other people for her situation.” This is the point in the post where my jaw actually dropped open. Yes, the woman who the show profiles specifically and explicitly because she has extreme compulsions to hoard … has strong compulsions to hoard! The author seems to think that Augustine has been hoarding out of spite or stubbornness and now that these people are helping her, she will just “snap out of it” and repent. But that’s not how a disability works. And blaming Augustine for not being magically cured of her disability during the course of taping is cruel and ableist.

But wait – it gets even worse. We are not done applauding these saintly folk who have taken time out of their days to help this woman with a disability who does not even appreciate all that they are doing for her. “Watching this episode, it’s impossible not to be struck by the generosity and caring of the people who are helping Augustine, and to wonder if their resources couldn’t be used helping other people who actually want to change.” Yup. That’s a direct quote, really. Or, in other words, Hey, we sent a counselor down there, and she didn’t immediately change her entire life and patterns of thinking. So fuck her. We’re done with her. Because this woman with a disability didn’t act the way we wanted her to. “Augustine seems less like a person with a compulsion caused by feelings of loss who desperately wants to get her life in control, and more like the clinical definition of a sociopath.” Or, because she wasn’t disabled in the way the author expected her to be disabled, we should give up on her.

So for me, the commentary is worse than the show itself. The show just places the person with a disability in the public eye – it takes a member of the public to do the pointing and laughing.

Why are they so angry at her?

Last week, Oprah did a segment on her show following up with Charla Nash, the woman who was viciously attacked by her friend’s pet chimpanzee in February 2009. The attack left Nash with significant and pervasive injuries to her hands and head, especially her face. After significant treatment and reconstruction, both her eyes were removed, she has only one thumb and no other fingers on either hand, and eats by taking liquids through a straw.

I did not watch the show – my feelings about all this are the press coverage is only to get a shot of her reconstructed face and show pictures of the “freak,” and I didn’t want to be a part of it – but I heard lots of reactions to the show in the media, on blogs, on twitter.

The primary reaction seemed to be anger. So many people said “if I lost my sight and my hands and my face looked like that, I would rather be dead.” And Nash is very clear that she would not rather be dead. She spends lots of time with her 17 year old daughter. From the Oprah site: “When Briana visits her mother, Charla says they just enjoy being together. ‘We lay next to each other and we hold each other and we talk about things—what she does at school or with her friends.'” She continues to push herself to recover, walking every day whether or not she feels good.

The reactions I heard would touch on her time with her daughter, her efforts to continue to heal, and dismiss them entirely. “You know, I love my kids and I’d want to see them grow up, but even still, I’d just rather be dead.” Despite being presented with the woman herself saying she was happy to be alive and happy to have survived, they ignored her, imposing their own ableist assumptions about living as a person with a disability and how awful they thought that would be.

They were angry at her for wanting to live, because it contradicted their thoughts about whether a person with a disability could live a fulfilling and happy life. They were angry at her even in the same breath as bemoaning how awful the attack was, how unfortunate for her that the injuries were so extensive. They were angry at her for thinking she was the same person, thinking she had a right to continue existing, for not giving up and going away to die.

I’m sorry that Charla Nash has to be the subject of this “freak” show. I’m sorry that she has to be the recipient of this anger. But I also want to put her face, put her story, on billboards nationwide, to say “fuck you” to everyone who wants her to go away and disappear.

Law & Order: “Dignity”, Worth, and the Medical Model of Disability

As a feminist, I am pro-choice. Abortion should be safe, legal, and accessible.

As a feminist, I look at more than whether single, individual women have access to abortion. There is a much broader reproductive justice framework that must be scrutinised, critiqued and repaired so that all women have access to informed, supported reproductive choices.

Women who have been denied informed, supported reproductive choices in the past include more than the wealthy, non-disabled white women who dominate pro-choice conversations. Marginalised groups are as likely to be fighting for their right to reproduce as their right not to – people of colour, trans people, lesbians, and of course women with disabilities, who have been denied sex education and forcibly subjected to contraception and sterilisation for centuries.

To that list of marginalised groups, of people who are often denied truly informed and supported choices, we can perhaps add – people pregnant with fetuses who may have a prenatal diagnosis of a disability.

As a feminist, I believe that we can have the abortion-rights conversation without marginalising, othering, and disparaging people with disabilities. I believe we can talk about abortion within that broader framework of reproductive justice, and that we can confront the ableism that creeps into some abortion-rights conversations head-on. This takes effort; we must think clearly, write carefully, read closely.

Yes, some forced-birthers will try to appropriate our words for their own ends. We need to remember that they are responsible for their own misreadings and misrepresentations, not us. We need to not let their twisted, misogynist agendas control what we say. They must not stop us from speaking out.

Law & Order, “Dignity”

So, guess what I did today? I swallowed my intense dislike of popular TV crimeporn show Law & Order, and watched episode 20×05, “Dignity”, in which a bloke murders a doctor who provides abortion services, to “save” his daughter’s fetus, diagnosed prenatally with Ehlers Danlos syndrome.

Before we start, a little background on Ehlers Danlos syndrome (EDS). EDS is not one condition; it is a heterogeneous group of conditions caused by differences in genes coding for collagen proteins. Collagen is a key ingredient in all connective tissue, including skin and ligaments. The commonest EDS types manifest primarily as joint hypermobility or as very elastic skin. EDS often goes undiagnosed until adulthood, or completely undiagnosed throughout life.

There is a very, very rare variety of EDS called dermatosparaxis which involvs fragile, floppy skin and easy bruising; there have been ten published case reports of this variety worldwide. Within that group, the severity is still heterogeneous – check out this blog Sense and Disability, by a woman with dermatosparaxis who has studied at Oxford and backpacked through Europe.

Let’s have a look at the episode. I’m not going to go into a detailed recap; you can check one out here at All Things Law & Order: “Law & Order “Dignity” Recap & Review”. The case is a ripped-from-the-headlines story with many details closely resembling the terroristic murder of Dr George Tiller, one of a half-handful of late term abortion providers in the USA. The show adds a number of details that appear designed to showcase forced-birther ideas, such as the invented detail that the slain doctor had in the past murdered a live newborn. The murderer’s defence argument centres around the idea that he is trying to save a fetus from the abortion that his daughter has scheduled.

The fetus in question has apparently been diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos syndrome (EDS). At first, oddly, we’re told that it has “Fragile Skin Disease”, which typically refers to a completely different set of keratin-related conditions, epidermolysis bullosa. The show does not elaborate on how the EDS was supposedly detected (prenatal gene testing is not routine), or the fact that EDS is heterogeneous and that people with EDS vary widely in phenotype, or, well, any other facts, really. We just get this:

[clips, transcripts and a lot more discussion are below the cut]

Continue reading Law & Order: “Dignity”, Worth, and the Medical Model of Disability