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Obituaries

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Jyoti Basu Indian Communist leader

Communist leader Jyoti Basu, 96, who in 1996 came close to becoming India's prime minister, died Jan. 17 in a Calcutta hospital of multiple organ failure, said Biman Bose, a leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), to which Mr. Basu belonged. He had been ailing for a few months and was hospitalized Jan. 1.

Mr. Basu became chief minister of West Bengal state in 1977 and served for 23 years, making him the longest-serving chief minister in India's political history.

In 1996, a group of parties asked Mr. Basu to lead a coalition government in New Delhi. The Communist Party declined because it did not want to be part of a government in which it would not have a majority. Mr. Basu later described that decision as a "historic blunder."

In his later years, Mr. Basu, a charismatic leader, assumed the role of an elder statesman whose advice and opinion were sought and respected across the political spectrum.

Judi Chamberlin Disability Rights Advocate

Judi Chamberlin, 65, a disability rights advocate and author of the groundbreaking book "On Our Own: Patient-Controlled Alternatives to the Mental Health System," (1978) died Jan. 16 at her home in Arlington, Mass., of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

In her early 20s, Ms. Chamberlin was hospitalized in a state institution and was declared schizophrenic. She soon discovered that as a psychiatric patient, she had no legal rights. This realization was the catalyst for her career as an activist, which began in the early 1970s when she co-founded the Mental Patients Liberation Front.

Throughout her life, Ms. Chamberlin worked to create client-run, non-coercive alternatives to traditional mental health systems and to end rights violations and discrimination against people with psychiatric disabilities.

She co-founded the Ruby Rogers Advocacy and Drop-In Center, a self-help facility run by and for people who have received psychiatric services, and the National Empowerment Center, a technical assistance center dedicated to promoting recovery and community integration.

In 1992, Ms. Chamberlin received the President's Distinguished Service Award from the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.

She was the author of the seminal National Council on Disability report "From Privileges to Rights: People Labeled With Psychiatric Disabilities Speak for Themselves" (2000).

Toward the end of her life, she became an advocate for the hospice model of care and the right to die at home, which she chronicled in the blog "Life as a Hospice Patient."

Dan Fitzgerald Basketball Coach

Dan Fitzgerald, 67, the coach who built Gonzaga College in Spokane, Wash., into a national basketball power, died Jan. 19 after collapsing at a restaurant in the Spokane suburb of Airway Heights. The cause of death was not immediately released.


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