Le Lézard
Classified in: Environment
Subjects: PDT, WOM, AVO, DEI

Wrongly declared incapable, woman's story exposes flaws of "forced care"


VANCOUVER, BC, Nov. 30, 2023 /CNW/ - Ten years ago today, Teresa Heartchild was rescued from an involuntary placement in a Toronto nursing home. Her future had been written off when a social worker ticked a box saying she was "not capable."  During the assessment, Heartchild, who has Down syndrome, objected to the incorrect health information. But, she was ignored and admitted to a nursing home as a long-term resident.

Heartchild was trapped in a system that would not listen to her voice.

"It was heartbreaking," says her sister Franke James, an environmental activist. James challenged the placement and helped secure Heartchild's discharge on November 30, 2013. However, another sibling opposed Heartchild's release and called the police. So, the two sisters had to stand together against the police, the healthcare system, and their own family to defend Heartchild's right to be free.

Forced care is a mechanism that helps society care for people who cannot care for themselves. It can be enacted through legal guardianships, police apprehensions, medical orders, or social worker's assessments. But it can easily go wrong, adversely affecting everyone from pop stars to football players, from the elderly to the disabled. People with disabilities are particularly vulnerable. UN Special Rapporteur, Catalina Devandas-Aguilar, said in 2019, "The deprivation of liberty on the basis of disability is a human rights violation on a massive global scale."

"I love my human rights." Heartchild says, "Please don't take them away just because I have Down syndrome." The two sisters worked together to win a public apology from the Ontario Minister of Health. The B.C. Human Rights Commissioner named Heartchild as a "Champion for Change." 

Now, a new book tells their harrowing story. Freeing Teresa: A True Story about Fighting Ableism. "It's shocking to realize that ableism?prejudice against people with disabilities?almost held Teresa back from fulfilling her true potential," James says. "We need to tell this story to bring about change."

"It's for all the people with disabilities," Heartchild says.

For interviews and documentation: Franke James, 778-997-4466, [email protected].

Freeing Teresa is available at bookstores and Amazon. Visit: freeingteresa.com, teresaheartchild.com, and frankejames.com.

Note: Teresa Heartchild is a pen name which she is using since some of her family members do not want to be associated with this story.

SOURCE The James Gang, Iconoclasts Inc.


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