Michael Schiavo And ACLU Fight To Overturn "Terri's Law"
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 29, 2003
TAMPA, FLORIDA--Attorneys for Michael Schiavo and the American Civil Liberties Union asked Pinellas County Circuit Court Wednesday to declare unconstitutional a law passed last week which spared the life of Terri Schiavo.
In their 52-page brief, the attorneys claimed that the Legislature improperly gave Governor Jeb Bush the authority to override court decisions on October 21 when it passed HB 35-E, known as "Terri's Law". Bush signed the measure into law the same day and ordered a feeding tube to be reinstalled into Terri's stomach six days after it had been removed by court order.
Attorneys George Felos and Randall C. Marshall wrote that the law violated Florida's constitutional right to privacy and illegally intruded on the courts' authority. They said the law set a precedent allowing politicians to override the courts any time they made an unpopular decision.
Governor Bush's lawyers are expected to file their response in court on November 5. His brother, President George W. Bush, said on Tuesday, "I believe my brother made the right decision."
Terri collapsed in February 1990 and her brain was without oxygen for several minutes. The courts have accepted doctors' testimony that Terri has since been in a "persistent vegetative state", where she cannot feel anything and from which she cannot recover. They have also accepted Mr. Schiavo's claims that his wife had told him she would not want to be kept alive "by artificial means". Her gastronomy tube was removed on October 15 by order of Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge George Greer.
Terri's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, claim that Terri is responsive and alert, and that she would improve if Mr. Schiavo would allow her to undergo rehabilitative therapies. Some experts have said that Terri could learn to swallow, thereby making the feeding tube unnecessary.
The governor pushed the Legislature to pass the bill during a special session. His office had received tens of thousands of messages from disability rights groups and right-to-life advocates.
Many disability rights leaders are frustrated that -- with the exception of a few opinion pieces -- the media has focused on Terri's case as a "right to die" issue.
"Thousands of people with disabilities across the United States are watching the case anxiously," wrote Stephen Drake in the Los Angeles Times.
"Obviously, we want to know how all those commenting in this case feel about the lives of people with Down's syndrome, autism, Alzheimer's and other disabilities," wrote Drake, who is a research analyst for the grassroots disability rights group Not Dead Yet.
"Are they next for death through starvation? It's not so farfetched."
In an interview with National Public Radio, Rus Cooper-Dowda explained that she once was declared to be in a "persistent vegetative state". During that time she was able to hear and understand what was being said around her. Her attempts to communicate were ignored or misunderstood.
"If I could talk to Michael Schiavo, I would say that I have been Terri and that she is communicating," she said. "The only way that you can believe that she is not communicating is if you refuse to see it. And that was my situation and I came terribly close to where Terri has been."
"Disabled Are Fearful: Who Will Be Next?" by Stephen Drake (Los Angeles Times -- free registration required)
"Recovering from a 'Persistent Vegetative State'" Interview with Russ Cooper-Dowda (National Public Radio)
"The Terri Schindler Schiavo Crippled Kickball Team" by Maryfrances Platt (Ragged Edge Magazine)
"The real meaning of the term 'brain dead'; Schiavo case does not qualify" (Montreal Gazette)
"Some vegetative patients may have awareness" (Associated Press via Florida Sun-Sentinel)
"Honour all of life all of the time" (Western Catholic Reporter)
"An Execution In Florida -- Terri Schiavo On Death Row" (Toogood Reports)
Extended coverage: "Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express)