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Disability rights advocates protest "Me Before You" film

Disability rights advocates protest the film "Me Before You" along W. Ridge Road (WHAM photo)

Greece, N.Y. - When the romantic film Me Before You premiered this weekend, it stirred up some controversy over its portrayal of people with disabilities and the right to die.

About a dozen disability rights advocates protested the movie outside the Regal Cinema in Greece Ridge Mall on Friday.

They believe the movie sends a negative message that it is better to be dead than disabled.

"People with disabilities want to live," said Stephanie Woodward of the Center for Disability Rights. "We're sick of society saying that we're burdensome, and you should just go and die. It's a very dangerous message to be sending to people."

Susan Norwood handed out flyers to cars passing by that read, "The film is not a romance, but an insult to those with disabilities."

"It's pity, it's pathetic, it's saying people with disabilities lives don't matter - and they do matter," Norwood said.

The film, based on the bestselling novel, is about a woman who falls in love with the paralyzed man for whom she is caring. That man considers assisted dying, and urges his lover to move on.

"This is a huge disservice to us," Woodward said. "Spreading the message that people with disabilities want to die, it's going to affect society, and society is going to think that this is real - and it's not."

Friday, 13WHAM spoke with Susan Rahn, a supporter of the Medical Aid in Dying legislation pending in New York for terminally ill individuals. Rahn has stage four cancer.

"I can't imagine the type of pain that I'm going to go through when my liver starts to shut down or that I have so much cancer in my lungs I can't breathe," Rahn said.

However, Rahn agrees with those who were protesting Friday. She said individuals with disabilities can lead productive and meaningful lives, and assisted dying shouldn't be an option.

"I just think that's more of a mental health issue than it is a physical issue," Rahn explains. "I would have hoped that instead of seeking out to death earlier than he needed to, that maybe he would have focused on something different."

13WHAM reached out to Warner Brothers and the screenwriter for comment. That inquiry was not immediately returned.

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