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Providing information, education, and training to build knowledge, develop skills, and change attitudes that will lead to increased independence, productivity, self determination, integration and inclusion (IPSII) for people with developmental disabilities and their families.

Moments in Disability History 5

ADA and Baby Doe

Prior to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), in hospitals around the country, doctors and parents decided against life-saving treatment, even routine medical care, for certain infants with physical or suspected intellectual disabilities. Consequently, each year hundreds, if not thousands, of newborns, who might otherwise have lived with disabilities, were allowed to die.

In 1971, the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation, in cooperation with Johns Hopkins Hospital, created the film "Who Should Survive" in the hope that it would stimulate thinking and discussion about this matter of life and death. However, thirteen years later, in 1984, Carlton Sherwood, CNN Reporter for CNN Special Assignment, documented in "Oklahoma Infanticide" the lack of medical treatment for babies born with spina bifida in Oklahoma.

"Who Should Survive" and the three part series "Oklahoma Infanticide" revealed that the civil rights protections under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act against withholding care based on a child's sex, race, or disability were not enough.

These videos are a reminder about the importance of maintaining and advancing the ADA.

Video: "Who Should Survive" by Guggenheim Productions, Inc.

Video: CNN Special Assignment: "Oklahoma Infanticide"

The language included In these videos is now outdated and considered offensive. However, at the time, the language was acceptable and is retained here because of the historical context of these videos and their historical significance.

Carlton Sherwood
Carlton Sherwood

Baby Doe's Mother
Baby Doe's Mother


The Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities Home Page

Ethical Issues, End of Life Conversations, and Developmental Disabilities

We extend our deepest appreciation to Steven Eidelman, Co-Director, National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities, for securing permission to use and post the film, "Who Should Survive," in connection with this Moment in History on ethical issues and developmental disabilities.

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The GCDD is funded under the provisions of P.L. 106-402. The federal law also provides funding to the Minnesota Disability Law Center, the state Protection and Advocacy System, and to the Institute on Community Integration, the state University Center for Excellence. The Minnesota network of programs works to increase the IPSII of people with developmental disabilities and families into community life.

This project was supported, in part by grant number 2001MNSCDD-03, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects with government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official ACL policy.

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