Florida House Considers New Bill To Keep "Incompetent" Persons
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 3, 2004
TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA--The Florida House on Tuesday considered a bill that would automatically keep alive any "incompetent" person -- regardless of the family's wishes -- if the person had made no written "clear and convincing" statement to the contrary.
The measure is based on the assumption that a person who relies on a feeding tube to survive would want to continue receiving nutrition, unless if they had made other wishes known.
If the bill passes the House Judiciary Committee as expected, it will head to the full House for a vote sometime after the Legislative session begins March 2. House members hope that Senate President Jim King will then allow the measure to come to a vote in the Senate. Two weeks ago, King said that the Senate would not take up any such bills this session.
"Never say never in the Legislature," said Representative Jeff Kottkamp who sponsored the bill in the House.
The measure was initiated amid the controversy over Terri Schiavo, who has severe disabilities and receives food and water through a feeding tube installed through her stomach wall. Last October, the Legislature passed "Terri's Law", which gave Governor Jeb Bush specific authority to have Terri's feeding tube reinserted six days after it had been removed under a court order.
Terri collapsed on February 25, 1990 at the age of 26 from what doctors believed was a heart attack, and her brain was without oxygen for several minutes. She came out of a coma a short time later but has been in what some physicians consider a "persistent vegetative state" from which they say she will not recover.
Her husband, Michael Schiavo, who is also her guardian, claimed that Terri told him prior to her injury that she would not want to live "by artificial means". He petitioned the court beginning in 1998 to have Terri's feeding tube removed.
Terri's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, have fought their son-in-law in court to keep their daughter alive. They believe Terri is alert, that she responds to them and tries to communicate. A number of medical professionals agree and say that Terri would benefit from rehabilitative therapies which Michael has refused.
Disability rights and right-to-life advocates put pressure on Governor Bush to intervene in the case last fall, including flooding his office with tens of thousands of messages. Immediately after Terri's feeding tube was removed, Bush pushed the Legislature to pass the "Terri's Law" so he could have the feeding tube reinserted.
Michael Schiavo has sued the governor arguing that the law violated her right to privacy and the state constitution's separation of powers.
Terri's case has been of interest to disability rights advocates for a number of years. Many believe that allowing Terri to die of starvation would send a message to others that it is acceptable to kill people with certain disabilities who cannot speak for themselves.
Text of the bill as introduced
http://www.zimp.org/documents/PCBJU04-05.pdf (Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)
Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation
"Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)