Change the laws that discriminate against the autistic and mentally disabled.

Petitioning Texas State House, Texas State Senate, Greg Abbott  Change the laws that discriminate against the autistic and mentally disabled.


Petition by Syleta Harkins
Portland, Oregon
51,491 (as of 6/8/15)

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Caregivers left my autistic sister, Rebekah, in a hot van for over five hours. When they finally found her, she was unconscious and clinging to life. A month later, she was dead.

My family wants justice for Rebekah’s wrongful death. In Texas, only the victim’s spouse, children, or parents can file a wrongful death suit. The mentally disabled often outlive their parents and seldom do they have spouses or children, so in cases like ours, we are left without justice. This limitation discriminates against people with disabilities and their loved ones by blocking their ability to seek legal closure. The caregivers at Sean Ashley House left my sister in a hot van to die, yet under Texas law, my family has no standing to file a wrongful death suit. This is not right.

We want Texas to give legal guardians of severely mentally disabled people the right to file wrongful death suits on behalf of the individuals they cared for.

Disabled people are often put in danger by their caregivers. In fact just three days after Rebekah was found in hot van, caregivers left another person to die in a van in Dallas. The disabled victims of neglect deserve to have their voices heard even after they are gone. Why should their disability and their circumstance prohibit their family from seeking justice?

For my family it may be too late, but this issue is larger than us.

Ordinary people often have the opportunity to find a spouse and have a family. Sadly, for many severely disabled people, this is not the case. In a sense, disabled people are treated as second class citizens. And in the case of their death, there is little legal recourse.

Texas needs to change this discriminatory statute and allow guardians of the severely disabled to fight for justice for the ones they loved and cared for. Join me and tell Gov. Abbot and the Texas House and Senate to allow guardians to file wrongful death lawsuits for the people they loved. #JusticeForRebekah #BeTheirVoice #DisabledLivesMatter

Sign Syleta’s petition

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