Florida House Gives Gov. Bush Power To Intervene In Schiavo Case;
Advocates Rally At White House, Hospice
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 20, 2003
TAMPA, FLORIDA--Late Monday night, the Florida House passed a bill giving Governor Jeb Bush the power to order Terri Schiavo's feeding tube reinstalled so she will not starve to death.
The bill, which was approved by a 63-23 vote, is expected to be passed by the state Senate on Tuesday.
Bush called the special session to vote on the measure, which is very specific to Terri's situation. The measure would give the governor 15 days to order a feeding tube reinserted in cases where a person has left no living will, is in a "persistent vegetative state", has had nutrition and hydration tubes removed, and where at least one family member has challenged that removal. It also specifies that the feeding tube must have been removed as of October 15 -- the day Terri's tube was pulled by court order.
Doctors say Terri will likely survive 7 to 14 days from when the feeding tube was taken out.
Earlier Monday, Florida's Advocacy Center for Persons with Disabilities asked U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday in Tampa to keep Terri alive long enough to investigate a claim that her husband has been abusing her.
Attorney Gordon Scott asked the federal judge to issue a 10-day injunction to give the advocacy agency time to investigate whether removing Terri's feeding tube was an act of abuse, and whether Terri can feel pain from her starvation and dehydration.
Terri, 39, collapsed in February 1990 from a chemical imbalance and was without oxygen for several minutes. Some doctors have said she is in a "persistent vegetative state", that she does not feel pain, and that she cannot recover. Terri does breathe on her own, and regulates her own blood pressure. Up until last Wednesday, she was being given food and water through a tube installed in her stomach.
Terri's husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo, claims his wife told him she would not have wanted to live "by artificial means", and in 1998 petitioned the court for permission to have the feeding tube removed. The courts have consistently sided with Mr. Schiavo.
Terri's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, have fought since that time to keep their daughter alive. They have affidavits from several medical professionals who claim that Terri could benefit from therapies -- including speech and swallowing therapies -- which her husband has repeatedly refused. Video tapes also show Terri apparently interacting with family members, laughing and following basic directions less than two years ago.
The Schindlers accuse their son-in-law of abusing and neglecting Terri, and suspect him in bringing about her initial collapse.
Disability rights advocates from around the country have been closely watching Terri's case, and have been acting to let their concerns be known. Emails have flooded into the governor's office. A vigil, including many right-to-life advocates, has been going on non-stop since last Monday in front of the hospice that has been Terri's home for the past several years.
A group of about 30 activists rallied in front of the White House Sunday afternoon, demanding President George Bush call on his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush, to intervene to keep Terri alive. Demonstrators, who were organized with less than 24-hour notice, marched with signs reading "Disability is not a capital crime" and "Gov. Bush -- Stay Terri's Execution".
"Terri Schiavo's death sentence should alarm all people with disabilities and our allies," wrote disability rights activist Laura Hershey in a plea for the disability community to contact Gov. Bush. "The implication is that people whose brain function and communication abilities are impaired do not deserve the same legal protection as other people."
"This is not a right to die case or a right to live case, it's a forced to die case," said Diane Coleman founder of the disability rights group Not Dead Yet. "Many have been shocked that legal protections for older and disabled people in guardianship have been so weakened that a 39 year-old woman, who is neither unconscious nor terminally ill, can be starved to death."
"If this case goes forward as it has been, [guardians] will be given carte blanche to kill people with disabilities that they would rather be without," said Coleman. "We must have checks and balances on the powers of guardians, and those have been eroded here in Florida."
The Schindlers visited Terri on Saturday with their priest.
"She's got an incredible will to live,'' said her brother, Robert Schindler Jr.
The family priest, Monsignor Thaddeus Malinowski, was not allowed to administer the rite of Viaticum, the last communion for a Catholic before death, because it involved placing a small wafer into Terri's mouth -- an act that would have violated a doctor's order that nothing be placed in her mouth to prevent choking and aspiration.
"State House gives Bush power to intervene in Schiavo coma case" (Associated Press via Sun Sentinel)
What if Terri Schiavo was a dog? (World Net Daily)
"FIRST-PERSON: The Terri Schiavo case: Death stalks the innocent" (SBC Baptist Press)
"Brain-Damaged Fla. Woman Denied Communion" (Associated Press via Lakeland Ledger)
"Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express)
Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation