The Worlds Wheelchair Culture
03.11.05 Point Of Views: The Sea Inside & Million Dollar Baby

Controversial films misrepresent paralyzed Americans
By Chaz Southard
Friday, March 11, 2005

The popular and controversial movies, "Million-Dollar Baby" and "The Sea Inside," deal with right to life issues for people who suffer from a catastrophic spinal cord injury. As a newly injured quadriplegic, I feel these films seriously overlook many of the current scientific advancements that prove that there is realistic hope to "cure" paralysis. Read 


Insight by Nat Hentoff

Clint Eastwood is no Dirty Harry. Attentive and with a wry sense of humor, he has told me he made his living as a jazz pianist in his youth. So he understands the life force of that music. But in his acclaimed "Million Dollar Baby," he is cluelessly encouraging the euthanization of some of the disabled. Read


Another Point of View
Commentary on Million Dollar Baby by Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.

The very idea that a severely disabled person might decide that their life is not worth living has driven various folks in the disability advocacy movement, as well as a few highly visible figures on the right-wing talk-show circuit and some in pro-life circles, into a frenzy. Marcie Roth, director of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, said she hates the film’s ending because so many people still think that “having a spinal-cord injury is a fate worse than death... Unfortunately," she told The Associated Press, “the movie is saying death is better than disability." Read


Groups Criticize 'Baby' for Message on Suicide 
By Sharon Waxman

What is puzzling about some of the protest about the film is that another Oscar-nominated, and critically lauded film this year, the Spanish-language "The Sea Inside" up for best foreign-language film, is primarily about assisted suicide and euthanasia. But it seems to have attracted little controversy.

When the Clint Eastwood film "Million Dollar Baby" came out last month, critics praised the film for its subtle power, moving performances and the quiet confidence of its director. But not wanting to give away its ending, few mentioned that a controversial social issue was buried in its plot... 

...Others are angrier still. "This movie is a corny, melodramatic assault on people with disabilities," wrote Stephen Drake on the Web site of a Chicago-based activist group called Not Dead Yet, which picketed the film there this month. "It plays out killing as a romantic fantasy and gives emotional life to the 'better dead than disabled' mindset lurking in the heart of the typical (read: nondisabled) audience member." 

Mr. Eastwood said in a telephone interview on Saturday that he was not surprised at the protest, but that the film was not about the right to die. "The film is supposed to make you think about the precariousness of life and how we handle it...How the character handles it is certainly different than how I might handle it if I were in that position in real life. Every story is a 'what if...' "  Read


A look at Million Dollar Baby by Ann Neville-Jan, an associate professor in the Department of Occupational Science  and Occupational Therapy at the University of Southern California. She lives in South Pasadena and can be contacted by e-mail at 


Eastwood Continues Disability Vendetta with 'Million Dollar Baby'
Source: National Spinal Cord Injury Association

BETHESDA, Md., Jan. 19 /PRNewswire/ -- Score one for Clint Eastwood for his award winning film, "Million Dollar Baby," a brilliantly executed attack on life after spinal cord injury (SCI). It is exquisitely filmed and acted. Eastwood, director and star of the film, and actors Hillary Swank and Morgan Freeman know their craft. Paring the story to basics, Frankie (Eastwood), an aging manager, agrees to train Maggie (Swank), a talented boxer. Maggie takes a fall and sustains SCI. Frankie then kills Maggie in a nursing home at her request.

Eastwood's message that life with SCI, with a disability, is not worth living is a prejudice shared by many. Missing is an exploration of why Maggie was in a nursing home without rehabilitation rather than returning home and attempting a decent quality of life. Eastwood fails to include mention that it is discrimination, poverty, and an inaccessible society that sometimes lead newly-injured people to abandon hope and choose death.

"Eastwood is remembered by many for his attack on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 2000," said Marcie Roth, CEO of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association. "I'm saddened but not surprised that he uses the power of fame and film to perpetuate his view that the lives of people with disabilities are not worth living."

Perhaps this movie is Dirty Harry's revenge for being sued in 1997 after refusing to include $7000 worth of accessible bathrooms in his 6.7 million dollar resort renovation. Eastwood spearheaded the call to weaken the ADA by including a detrimental ninety-day notification provision. The fact that Eastwood refused pre-lawsuit notification via certified mail and was sued under California state law not the ADA came out at a subsequent congressional hearing.

"Many people with SCI and other disabilities survive, thrive, and contribute to our society," stated Roth. "Dirty Harry could win the day and show us all a better use of his legendary talent by portraying disabled lives well-lived rather than sending the damaging message "better dead than disabled."

Founded in 1948, the National Spinal Cord Injury Association is dedicated to improving the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of Americans with spinal cord injury and disease and their families. This number grows by approximately thirty newly-injured people each day. For more info on SCI see Source at:


Disabled groups condemn Eastwood euthanasia film
By James Langton in New York Filed: 01.23.05

Clint Eastwood, the Hollywood screen legend, is under fire from disabled groups who say that his latest award-winning film is thinly disguised propaganda for euthanasia.

Eastwood is the director of Million Dollar Baby, a drama about a female boxer described as "Rocky in a sports bra," in which he also stars alongside Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman.

The film went on general release in the United States earlier this month and critics identified it as a leading contender for an Academy Award after Swank and Eastwood won Golden Globes for Best Actress and Best Director.

Ostensibly, the film is about a young boxer who turns to an elderly trainer to take her to the top. Yet audiences have been astonished by an unheralded plot twist in which a leading character becomes crippled in a serious accident and begs to be put to death.

The film's detractors accuse Warner Brothers, the studio that made it, of deliberately concealing the grim ending. A number of religious right-to-life groups are also upset because Eastwood's character is a devout Roman Catholic who attends mass every day.

Debbie Schlussel, a conservative television and radio commentator, described the film as a "million dollar lie" and a "cover story to suck moviegoers in for a nefarious message." She said that the film supported "killing the handicapped, literally putting their lights out".

The National Spinal Cord Injury Association, one of America's most respected organisations for disabled people, accused Eastwood of a "disability vendetta," describing the last scene of the film as a "brilliantly executed attack on life after a spinal cord injury."

Eastwood clashed previously with the charity when he spent $600,000 (£319,500) fighting a legal order to make his Mission Ranch Hotel in Carmel, California, accessible to handicapped people.

Marcia Roth, the association's chief executive, said the star was using the "power of fame and film to perpetuate his view that the lives of people with disabilities are not worth living."

Last week, film critics attending their annual awards ceremony in Chicago were confronted by protesters from Not Dead Yet, an organisation that fights assisted suicide laws. The group was angry about the glowing reviews Million Dollar Baby had received, saying that critics were ignoring the film's underlying message which, it said, "promotes the killing of disabled people as the solution to the `problem' of disability."

Steven Drake, a researcher for Not Dead Yet, said that the film "plays out killing as a romantic fantasy and gives emotional life to the `better dead than disabled' mindset." The film's release comes as the right-to-die debate is hotting up in the US. A new law being considered in California – Eastwood's home state – would allow doctor-assisted suicide.

President Bush has made clear his opposition to euthanasia. Last year, his brother, Jeb, the governor of Florida, intervened in the case of Terry Schiavo, a brain-damaged woman whose parents are fighting her husband's wish to take her off life support.

Marketing for the film in the US has concentrated exclusively on its boxing theme and Eastwood's initial reluctance to take on Swank's character, telling her "tough ain't enough". Few reviews even hint that the film's climax is an assisted suicide.

Another conservative commentator and film critic, Michael Medved, said: "Warner Brothers never tells you the truth about a key plot twist that turns this pedestrian boxing movie into an insufferable manipulative right-to-die movie."

While promoting the film, Eastwood has avoided talking about the issue of euthanasia. In his only comment so far, he told an interviewer: "How people feel about that is up to them. I'm not a pro-euthanasia person and this is a story about a giant dilemma and how one person had to face that."

Eastwood, who has been married twice and has eight children by five women, rarely talks about his own religious beliefs in public.

Unexpected support for the film has come from the Catholic News Service, which reviews all new films from the point of view of the Catholic Church in America.

The reviewer, David DiCerto, said: "The movie's morally problematic end may leave many Catholic viewers feeling emotionally against the ropes."

But he added: "The film is not a polemic in favour of assisted suicide," and, "Given the dire circumstances, our sympathies and humane inclinations may argue in favour of such misguided compassion."