This article was published by Not Dead Yet on April 26, 2016.
Dear Disability Rights Supporter:
Twenty years ago, on April 27th, at a disability rights gathering in Dallas, Bob Kafka, one of the leaders of ADAPT, said to me, “I’ve got a name for your group.” For years, ADAPT had been supportive of disability advocacy to challenge the assisted suicide movement and other deadly forms of medical discrimination. With the increasing popularity of “Dr. Death” Jack Kevorkian, whose body count was mainly people with disabilities who were not terminally ill, there had been growing talk of a street action group like ADAPT to address this critical threat to our lives. So, from a running gag in the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Bob suggested “Not Dead Yet.” On that day, as over 40 disability rights leaders from across the country signed onto Congressional Subcommittee testimony co-authored by Carol Gill and myself, Not Dead Yet (NDY) began.
The struggle against assisted suicide was about to take a dramatic turn. On June 21, 1996, NDY activists held our first direct action, picketing outside the Michigan cottage where Kevorkian was known to stay. The AP newswire carried a photo of the protest, the first media notice of our opposition. Three years later, when Jack Kevorkian was finally back in a Michigan courtroom, on trial for one of his self-confessed assisted killings, disabled activists appeared for the first time to call for the equal protection of the law, to demand that the court and jury “Jail Jack,” and to declare before the court and the public at large that we were “Not Dead Yet.”
The presence of disabled activists at this fifth Kevorkian trial finally led to a murder conviction, and announced to the world the movement of disabled people against the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia.