Thursday, October 7, 2010

Representative from LPA writes about Matt Roloff's speech at Holocaust museum

Gary Arnold, VP of public relations for Little People of America wrote about witnessing Matt Roloff's speech at the Halocaust Museum.

"Roloff spoke for about an hour. Kicking off the lecture, Roloff did make a connection to the Holocaust and people of short stature, alluding to a woman named Liebe Perla and her family, a group of musicians who were dwarfs. During World War II, Perla and her family survived Auschwitz because Mengele kept them alive in order to conduct experiments upon them. Roloff put that story in the context of his own life, explaining that as a young boy, he spent months and months in hospitals. Although he had many surgeries that were necessary, Roloff said he was often subject to poking, prodding and pictures at the whim of doctors. Examinations that made him feel less like a patient, and more like an experiment....

Roloff linked the prejudicial treatment of Liebe Perla and the objectifying treatment that he experienced as a young boy to contemporary decisions that reflect prejudice against people of short stature. He said he knew of a couple who wanted to have a child. Through either in vitro or preimplantation genetic diagnosis, they wanted a dwarf child. But their wish was refused. No one would implant them with an embryo that carried the gene for dwarfism. People with dwarfism certainly face challenges that are specific to dwarfism. But everyone faces challenges. To presume that the challenges of a dwarf compared to the challenges of another person are more significant, and justify decisions that suggest a dwarf's life is unworthy of living, is certainly reflective of prejudice against people of short stature.

To change attitudes, or systems (see schooled, September 29), that deny people with dwarfism a choice offered to typical statured people will not be easy. Even after the work of people like Billy Barty, the founder of Little People of America, and the Roloffs, who have opened up the minds of millions of people about dwarfism, we still face systemic barriers that deny us what others are offered. But even if it's one person at a time, if Matt and others continue to share their stories, like he did in Skokie at the Holocaust museum, minds will open up and understand that far more connects the lives of little people with others than separates it."

You can read the full article on Gary Arnold's blog located here:


David said...

No. I did not just read that.

Matt, in any way, tried to compare the victims of the Holocaust to his own treatment at Shriners, receiving free medical care at the decision of his loving parents.

It's repulsive to make that comparison.

Brandon said...

I'm not surprised Gary Arnold liked it. I lost all respect for the LPA.

They honor the Roloffs. They refuse to acknowledge the Roloffs own slurs against other minority groups. The LPA and Gary Arnold throws fits anytime the word midget is said, but they honor a family that says words and won't apologize for saying offensive words to other groups.

The only LP I respect is Jen Montzingo and she's a friend of the Roloffs. But at least Jen, in subtle ways made it clear she thinks it is all wrong not only midget, like the Roloffs and the LPA hypocrites.

baxter said...

I agree David. To compare his treatment at a *charity* hospital to the people who suffered and died as mere experiments for Mengele, is UNBELIEVABLE.

And please, no, "you Jews have to grow a thicker skin," out of certain pseudo christians. Your anti-Semetism shows BIG TIME.

Rap541 said...

"He said he knew of a couple who wanted to have a child. Through either in vitro or preimplantation genetic diagnosis, they wanted a dwarf child. But their wish was refused. No one would implant them with an embryo that carried the gene for dwarfism."

As well they should be refused. When a family chooses to have a baby by natural methods, they understand that they are potentially rolling the dice and could end up with a seriously handicapped child. That's the risk you take when concieve a child naturally.

What these people are asking for is asking doctors to make them a handicapped child. There's no "good" form of dwarfism. Sure Zach is pretty active, but he's also had multiple surgeries and is only alive because of a shunt in his head.

Willfully choosing your child to have a severe physical handicap, to always be handicapped socially, because you want your kid to look like you... Yeah, I understand why doctors aren't on board with helping someone intentially concieve a child with severe disabilities.

Also really, Matt needs to get over the childhood issues if he's now equating his hospitalizations with Josef Mengele's experiments. Now I certainly think little people face challenges currently and certainly did during ww2 (where they were experimented on by Mengele) but honestly, equating medically necessary surgeries with people being tortured is a bit of a reach.

Mike P. said...

Roloff's foolishness rises to a breathtaking height.

He says that Shriners Hospital doctors were mean to him, and so he plays the Hitler card. He associates his painful medical treatments with the depravity of Mengele, and does so apparently without the blink of an eye.

Breathtaking! Where do you start with such tripe?

Would the doctors who treated Roloff be pleased to know that he now publicly associates them with the Nazis? Would the Shriners who paid for his treatment and for the hospital which housed him, feel grateful to hear that Roloff now speaks of their service to him in the same breath as the Nazis?

I don't doubt the pain of Roloff's many treatments. Nor do I doubt that the entry of any doctor into a small boy's hospital room could mean much other than more pain. But Roloff himself, if he is honest and not just playing to the grandstand, must admit that small boys don't understand everything; that they misinterpret; and that, painful as an examination may be, they might just get its purpose wrong.

Maybe doctors are mean and like to poke and hurt kids like little Matt Roloff, or maybe kids like little Matt Roloff just don't have a full grasp of what is happening in a very unfortunate situation.

Matt Roloff says he was gratuitously hurt by Shriners doctors. This, he says, is a product and example of prejudice toward dwarfs. Further, he claims that it walks the same footsteps of Nazi medical experiments.

Nowhere does he mention that medical procedures hurt, that doctors must often cause pain while healing. Most telling, he fails to mention that unknown millions of other persons of every sort and "defect," from dwarfs to the retarded, to gays and to Jews themselves, suffered the same depravity as Liebe Perla and her family.

Roloff has no business clutching the Holocaust to his breast, pleading special history.

Roloff is tone-deaf beyond belief.

Sandie said...

Wow. Remarkably offensive.

Jocelynn said...


I thought it was a very poigniant moment when Zach visited Dachau and realized that if he had been alive in Germany during that time he would have been tortured and possibly killed. It was a very heavy and emotional moment. I appreciated Zach's understanding and how it related to him personally, in the "it could have been me" way.

I bet that is the reason why Matt was invited to speak at the museum.

I thought Matt could have delivered a good speech sticking to the same theme that Zach presented, but to actually personally compare his time at Shriners to what went on during the Holocaust

Susan said...

What I am learning about little people after reading what Matt and Gary Arnold said about their childhood is that some LP are very ungrateful for what doctors did to enhance their lives and they enjoy making themselves into victims. They also think they are the only people who have bad experiences with medical operations.

I read Gary Arnold's example of his embarrassing treatment that he received at 4 years old. He acknowledges that the doctors greatly enhanced his life by performing their operation on him. But he is complaining about it because he needed to stand naked against a wall while the confused doctors tried to figure out the best way to treat the condition of his legs. Dwarfism was relatively rare, especially back then. Kudos to the doctors for examining him and assessing him fully. They were successful.

If I was a doctor and read these stories, I would want nothing to do with LP.

I think all the doctors involved were trying to do the best job they could. They did not set out to torture or humiliate people of short stature. They are humans that don't have all the answers, but do their best to help their patients.

Judging by what Mr. Arnold said, that the surgeries greatly enhanced his life, I would say the doctors were right and did a great job. But he is equating them to Nazi treatment.

I say the same thing about Matt. Despite Matt saying he spent his childhood in hospitals with doctors torturing him, he also said he was an active child that built tree forts. I think the doctors did what was necessary to try to help him.

It's extremely ungrateful for Matt and Gary Arnold to look back and critize the doctors that enhanced their lives.

As I said, I think they should also be more aware that it is not a LP issue. Lots of average sized people have bad experiences with doctors and treatment they receive.

Rap541 said...

Susan - I agree, but I do think we have to acknowlwdge that when these men were children, there also was a much different attitude towards doctors and towards people with physical disabilities.

Doctors were pretty much taught, and allowed to be, arrogant jerks. It was simply part of the mindset - if you're a doctor, then you're right

And people with physical disabilities were pretty much viewed as substandard human beings. Matt and Gary do come from the generation where it was still common to institutionalize people with down syndrome, for example. So I can be fair and say I am sure that Gary was made to stand naked against a wall while adult men discussed his body in cold terms and had no concern for his feelings, or that Matt had doctors who were assholes.

But you're right - ultimately I don't believe there was a massive conspiracy on the part of the medical community to willfully torture dwarf children, and its not just an LP issue.

ppe said...

That's pretty bad to compare his treatment to the the angel of death experiments in WW2. Look up the pictures and you'll see the emaciated children and dismembered body parts. The experimental injections to change eye color really bother me.

Obviously matt spent a lot of time in the hospital as a boy, and it had a major impact on his life. I've never been through that, and I'm sure there were unnecessary treatments and pain & discomfort associated with it. That was a long time ago, and medicine has improved, and human rights have come a long way.

In terms of requesting a child with disabilities... This is a difficult subject. I have worked with many children who have severe disabilities - a quad boy with CP, many children with autism, downs syndrome, etc... These parents don't go into it hoping for a debilitating disease. The unwavering love and devotion these parents have is a touching experience, and the hope to see their child reach their full potential is amazing. Dwarfism makes life difficult, but there are way worse conditions to have. And I assume that a child who later on finds out they were conceived on purpose to be a dwarf would still be happy to be alive. Zach used to say he wanted to have all dwarf children.

Reminds me of the case of Bree Walker. She is a TV anchorwoman with "lobster claw" disease where her hands and feet are severely misformed. She had a 50% chance of passing it on to children and when people found out she was going to have her second child, the public outcry was immediate. They didn't think it was right for her to play those odds or to bring kids into the world that may have a disease like that. She ended up with 2 kids that did inherit the condition and very little use of their hands and feet. I saw an interview when the kids were teenagers, and the daughter was fine with things, the boy struggled with the disability.

Rap541 said...

Pppe - to me there is a difference between Bree Walker concieving naturally and passing on her genetic condition with a 50-50 chance, and having a doctor fertilize your eggs, and intentially implant the one that carries your genetic issue because you want your child to have your disability.

Thats not *playing the odds* at all. Bree Walker could have had all normal kids, or all lobster clawed kids. She took a chance. She didn't have a doctor intentionally inseminate her with lobster clawed embreyos because she insisted her child have her condition.

Shadow said...

'I'm sure there were unnecessary treatments"

Just have to say something here. I don't think there were any "unnecessary" treatments, which would imply the doctors did something knowing it was useless. They *may* have tried unproven treatments that failed to have the desired effect, but that is not the same as unnecessary.
Learning what doesn't work is just as important as learning what does, and while I'm sure they all hoped for a favorable outcome, not every new technique will work, even if it worked in a lab or on a computer or on a rat.

Conversely, there's a first time for everything. The first time a doctor used the bone-lengthening procedure (breaking the bone, then pulling it apart bit by bit to let new bone fill in the gap), it was seen as horrific. Now it's standard medical procedure, and was even considered by Zach at one point.

There's no doubt Matt's time in hospital affected him deeply, but it appears to me more a case where Matt needs therapy to deal with his reactions and emotions and memories than any malfeasance or malpractice issues with Shriners.

And to compare his experience to the Holocaust? There are no words...

Sandie said...

Of all the posts here, this one has really affected me the most; and is the one I fervently wish Matt would read and consider the well thought out and articulate comments (he's not capable, I think). And I am compelled to state exactly what I think of him: that he is a vain, shallow, opportunistic narcissist. I've known a few, and sadly, they don't change. It's very sad and infuriating at the same time.

ppe said...

In terms of unnecessary treatments, I mean that from the perspective of what we now know in medicine, and in his perspective. I'm assuming that treatments given at the time were done with good intentions, I'm assuming that by our medical advances since then some of them would be deemed unnecessary... and in his eyes seem as unnecessary.

Bree Walker's situation was definitely different because she was opting to procreate and roll the dice versus intentionally creating that sort of child. What reminds me of being similar is the public outcry saying she shouldn't create a deformed child. People sticking their nose in other people's business. It's also similar in that it's based on what others perceive as a deformity that should be avoided at all costs. Even though people have the condition and can cope well with it. That's also a similar aspect. So serious and somber on this board.

Rap541 said...

I just think there's a difference between taking a chance and possibly having a deformed child, and intentionally sorting the embreyos to pick the deformed child.

If you're concieving naturally, you are still taking a chance at having a "normal" child. If you allow a scientist to design your child to be deformed, you really can't claim "God did it" when the kid asks why they are different. When you concieve naturally, you can at least use the "God has a plan for you, he makes us all different for different reasons" but when you and the scientist sorted embreyos, your kid will know "Mom and Dad wanted me to have their handicap because they wanted a child that looked like them more than they wanted a healthy child".

Most doctors believe in the Hippocratic Oath - "first do no harm". And dwarfism is rarely without painful physical side effects. The deaf community gets hot and bothered by not being able to design labratory babies that have their handicap.

As a friend of mine put it, when we discussed this "Yes, I get along well despite muscular dystrophy but who in their right mind would want their children to have it? Who in their right mind would intentionally disadvantage their child for life?"

If you're concieving naturally, you're rolling the dice but you're not intentionally condemning another person to a lifetime of health issues. When you use a doctor to intentionally generate a child with your disability, you're asking the doctor to harm someone.