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Utah News

Neurodiverse UT Holds Vigil In Memory Of Victims Of Filicide

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On Monday, members of Utah’s disability community gathered virtually to remember victims of filicide, which is when a disabled person is murdered by their relatives or caretakers, regardless of intent.  

“Oftentimes in the media a lot of these killings that are portrayed as mercy killings. The victims are kind of viewed as deserving of it or that they are burdens. And the story is put on the perpetrators and they often get lenient sentencing. Or in other cases, when disabled people die at the hands of their caregivers, the disability aspect or discrimination of against their disability is overlooked. And that is really important,” said Whitney Geertsen.

Geertsen is the executive director or Neurodiverse UT, which led the vigil. She said it’s important that those who are disabled receive fair treatment. 

“We need to kind of view that disabled lives are worth living. Chronically ill lives are real lives worth living. Being intellectually disabled or having dementia, your life is still worth living. It's not up to your caregiver or another person to decide for you, if you know, deserve to die,” Geertsen said.

 

Geertsen said it’s important to listen to what the disabled person needs. 

 

“And so there is this concept in the medical community too, we have this idea that that being disabled inherently means suffering. But the reason why we suffer is because of that discrimination, or that ableism. So we need to kind of focus not on caregivers or even relatives of a disabled person, but the disabled person themselves on what they need,” Geertsen said.

 

Geertsen is on the autism spectrum. She said she’s struggled with mental health and the stigma that comes from being on welfare. She wants to remind people we’re an interdependent species and we need to acknowledge disability as part of human diversity.