Quadriplegics demand Spanish government respect for their right to life

The controversy surrounding positive comments from Spanish government officials regarding a film which depicts a quadriplegic man who committed suicide with the help of his friends as a hero has led organizations that care for and defend quadriplegics to demand authorities ensure their right to live with dignity instead of promoting their eventual elimination.

Civil rights groups in Spain have been making public the testimonies of various quadriplegic leaders and have launched a campaign to get citizens to support those who suffer from this condition by sending letters to government officials, especially to the Ministers of Work and Social Issues, Health, Justice and Culture, in order to make known their rejection of the official support that is being given to a film that devalues the life of quadriplegics and to solicit real support for such individuals.

The campaign, led by the Spanish website www.hazteoir.org, was launched after Spanish President Jose Luis Zapatero, together with seven cabinet members, attended the debut of the film, “Mar Adentro,” directed by Pedro Amenabar, which narrates the story of Ramon Sampedro, a quadriplegic who committed suicide with the help of friends.

“HazteOir wants to give voice to quadriplegics, who don’t go to the cinema and don’t care for the ‘kind’ offer to end their lives, but rather are interested in the real possibility of enjoying conditions that are worthy of life,” representatives said.

Among the groups that are joining in the protest include the Association for the Study of Spinal Cord Injuries.  The Association’s President, Maria del Mar Cogollos, is the first quadriplegic woman to become a mother after suffering from the condition

Cogollos said, “The media highlights the life of Ramon, the story of an anti-hero, who never accepted his circumstances or his condition.”

Gustavo Almela, a quadriplegic with a degree in economics, pointed out that “this movie has caused much harm to quadriplegics, who struggle to live each day.”

“Handicapped individuals currently receive around $325 a month in government assistance.  Roughly 500,000 individuals in Spain receive this aid and it is difficult for them to make ends meet,”   reported HazteOir.org.

Meanwhile, the Independent Life Forum, which defends the rights of the handicapped, also expressed its disgust for the film, saying, “The life of a quadriplegic should not be considered a burden, but rather of inestimable value for the whole of society.”

Real Problems

According to HazteOir.org, “It is amazing that the government pays more attention to a movie which advocates for the death of the handicapped than to the legitimate concerns of quadriplegic and paraplegic organizations, which are interested not in dying but in getting the State to help them achieve the minimum conditions for living a life of dignity.”

 “We invite our readers, especially those who suffer from a handicap, to make the true concerns of the handicapped known to our government, and to demand the social assistance guaranteed by our Constitution, especially the right to a just pension,” the organization said.

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