Monday, November 28, 2005

A new series of public service announcements (PSAs) in which children envision the type of world they will grow up into is being launched to promote the need to learn and apply the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The PSAs, to run in community-conscious newspapers and TV outlets across the United States, are a centerpiece of a massive new campaign to increase public awareness and use of the Declaration.

Each newspaper PSA pictures a child or teenager speculating on what his world will be like when he is older, focusing on whether he will still enjoy one of the rights granted by the Declaration. The PSA urges the reader to make human rights a fact by learning and using the Declaration and so help create a lasting foundation for freedom, justice and peace in the world.
The TV PSAs convey a similar message.

Readers of the print PSAs may also order a new booklet, Know Your Human Rights, an illustrated publication designed to teach the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The work is an adult version of the highly effective What are Human Rights?, now translated into 19 languages and containing the Declaration in language that children understand. Widely praised by teachers, government officials, religious and human rights leaders all over the world, What are Human Rights? has already become a standard text for many educators in their work with youth.

The need to increase public awareness of the Declaration is clear from a survey conducted for its 50th Anniversary by the United Nations Association-USA, which found that 92% of Americans had never heard of it.

The human rights campaign is being conducted by the International Foundation for Human Rights and Tolerance, a grassroots, tax-exempt organization that seeks to make the Universal Declaration of Human Rights known and used. Copies of the booklets can be downloaded here, the PSAs can be downloaded above, and both can be requested from the Foundation.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Shaina Dunkle

From Alliance for Human Research Protection

Shaina Dunkle was a bright, energetic 10-year-old girl when she died in a pediatrician's office in Bradford, Pennsylvania, in February 2001. A little more than a half-hour earlier, she had collapsed in the school library. Shaina had a history of asthma and problems with her kidneys and urinary tract, but these problems weren't responsible for her tragic and unexpected death. A postmortem ruled that the child died from the toxic effects of Desipramine, a psychoactive drug she had been compelled to take after a school psychiatrist suggested she suffered from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Shaina's problems began while attending first grade in 1997. Like many other normal and healthy youngsters, she had problems sitting still, concentrating on classroom instructions, and listening to her teachers. In an interview with the investigative radio program Scams & Scandals, Shaina's mother Vicky recalled that the youngster "was placed outside the classroom [and] not allowed to study with the other children." On one occasion, Shaina's teacher, rebuking the child for having a messy desk, emptied its contents on the classroom floor and had her replace them as her classmates erupted in laughter. Old enough to feel the sting of ostracism, Shaina started to have "nightmares [and was] beginning to be afraid of going to school," Vicky related to her radio audience.

Lost angel: Shaina Dunkle, adopted by her parents Steve and Vicky at birth, was a "sweet, caring, and giving" child who enjoyed dancing and sports. Like many healthy, active children, Shaina had difficulty adapting to a classroom environment. School administrators defined those difficulties as symptoms of a spurious medical condition called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and compelled Shaina's parents toput her on a regimen of dangerous psychoactive drugs, including Desipramine. Shaina died in February 2001, at 10 years of age, from coronary arrest precipitated by "Desipramine toxicity." Knowing that their daughter had challenges with learning that could only be addressed on a one-to-one basis, Vicky and her husband Steve took Shaina out of class and home-schooled her for the rest of her first grade year. "I could see a definite difference in her behavior, and she was making very good progress in her studies," Vicky told THE NEW AMERICAN. As the summer of 1998 waned and children prepared to return to school, Shaina - feeling the pull of her peer group - wanted to go back. "She saw the other girls her age getting their school clothes and backpacks, and she wanted to be with them," Vicky recalled. After consulting with school officials, Vicky and Steve relented. But within the first two weeks of classes, Shaina's problems resumed.

"Shaina was behind the other children," Vicky recounted. "We wanted to have her undergo a learning support evaluation." Immediately after that evaluation - in January 1999, halfway through the school year - Shaina was placed in a learning support program. But this didn't satisfy school officials. "In March [1999]," Vicky recalled, "we got a letter from the school psychologist telling us that Shaina was still struggling, and that she displayed all of the 'characteristics' of a child suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This seemed odd to us, because Shaina wasn't a disciplinary problem for anybody. She was an obedient child, sweet, caring, and giving. She did have a short attention span, and could be distracted fairly easily, but these are hardly abnormal traits in a child her age. And she did have challenges to overcome in her schoolwork. But the psychologist and other school officials focused on ADHD as the problem, and began pressuring us - not forcing us, but pressuring us - to have her examined and 'medicated.'"

Although they balked at the suggestion, Vicky continued, "we were beginning to believe that something must be wrong. After all, we thought, these people are the experts. They're with these children eight hours a day. If this is what they say needs to be done, maybe we should do it." In April 1999, the Dunkles visited a physician. Forty-five minutes later they emerged with a diagnosis of ADHD and a prescription for Wellbutrin.

Almost immediately the side effects became visible: Shaina began to lose weight and her disposition changed. Vicky took Shaina off the drug and took her back to the physician, who prescribed another drug called Effexor, which led to recurring bouts of insomnia. After the third visit, the second grader was put on a third drug, Desipramine, "which we were told had fewer side effects and was less likely to be abused than Ritalin," Vicky observed.

At first, "Shaina seemed to respond well to the Desipramine," Vicky continued. "Her attention span got longer, her handwriting got neater. But then we got calls from the school telling us that she was relapsing. This happened several times, and each time we took her back for treatment - which meant a larger dose of Desipramine." Neither Shaina nor her parents were warned that Desipramine (which the FDA has not approved) should not be used by people suffering from kidney ailments, as Shaina did.

After starting with a daily dosage of 10 milligrams, Shaina's daily intake steadily increased to 200 milligrams by February 2001 - and her physical and behavioral problems escalated as well. Shortly before she died, "Shaina acted out in class, throwing a pencil at one student and threatening another with scissors," Vicky told THE NEW AMERICAN. "This sent up vivid red flags for her teachers, and for us, too, because Shaina was never an aggressive or violent child."

In mid-February 2001, Shaina's physician - who insisted that Desipramine wasn't causing the side effects - ramped up the daily dose to 250 milligrams. One week later, Shaina was dead.

"That morning, I gave her breakfast, French-braided her hair, and then administered her 250 milligrams of that drug," Vicky recalled to THE NEW AMERICAN. "She left at a quarter to eight, saying, 'I'll see you at three, Mommy.'" Three hours later Vicky got a call from the school nurse saying that Shaina had fallen and injured her cheek during what appeared to be a mild seizure. Vicky and Steve rushed to the school, collected their child, and drove her to the doctor's office.

Shaina appeared normal during the half-hour drive. As Vicky signed in with the receptionist, Shaina collapsed into a seizure. A physician rushed in to examine the child; after a moment he instructed a nurse to "call a code 99." "I've worked in hospitals, and I knew that 'code 99' referred to cardiac arrest," Vicky explained. "Shaina looked into my eyes as her life ended, and I could do nothing to save her," recalled Vicky. "It's been two and a half years, and I relive those last few minutes every day."

The coroner's report certified that Shaina was killed by Desipramine toxicity. As her dosage increased - in response to complaints from school officials that her behavior wasn't improving - Shaina was unable to metabolize the drug. The accumulated toxins in her bloodstream precipitated a heart attack.

Vicky and Steve adopted Shaina at birth. Vicky was present in the delivery room when Shaina took her first breath and present in the pediatrician's office when she took her last. "I believe God sent her to us to take care of," commented Vicky, "and I've asked God too many times to count why He took her from us." Every single night, Vicky and Steve visit a nearby cemetery to pray over Shaina's grave.

Email me!

My Favorite Religious Links