After Other Efforts Fail, U.S. House Committee Plans To Intervene To
Save Terri Schiavo
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 17, 2005
WASHINGTON, DC & CLEARWATER, FLORIDA--The U.S. House Committee on Government Reform plans to issue subpoenas early Friday, in an effort to stop Florida doctors from removing the feeding tube that is keeping Terri Schiavo alive.
"We will issue a subpoena which will require hospice administrators and attending physicians to preserve nutrition and hydration for Terri Schiavo to allow Congress to fully understand the procedures and practices that are currently keeping her alive," House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis said in a statement late Thursday. "The subpoena will be joined by a Senate investigation as well."
"This inquiry should give hope to Terri, her parents and friends, and the millions of people throughout the world who are praying for her safety. This fight is not over."
The move is one of several last-minute efforts to delay or halt a judge's order to have her feeding tube removed at 1:00 p.m. Friday.
The struggle between Terri's husband and her parents, often described in media reports as a "right to die" case, has been one of the top stories in newscasts across the country and around the world the past several days.
Her husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo, claims that his wife has been in a "persistent vegetative state" during the 15 years since she collapsed and her brain was without oxygen for several minutes. He convinced a local court that she told him before her brain injury that she would not want to live by artificial means.
Her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, argue that she is alert and aware, and that she could improve through therapies which Mr. Schiavo has refused. They point out that Terri breathes on her own and only has the feeding tube because she cannot eat by mouth. They have lobbied lawmakers and politicians in both Florida and Washington, D.C., to intervene.
Thursday's late night House announcement came after it became clear to Congressional leaders that they would not have time to hammer out a compromise between measures that had been passed in the Senate and House before lawmakers headed home for the Easter recess. The Senate passed its "Terri Schiavo Bill" Thursday to allow Terri's parents to sue in federal court. A broader measure, passed Wednesday in the House, would have applied to other people in similar conditions.
But many lawmakers left late Thursday for the Easter break, essentially stalling both bills.
The announcement also came the same day the U.S. Supreme Court refused without comment an appeal by Terri's parents to step into the case. The Schindlers had argued that Terri's constitutional rights to due process and religious freedom had been violated.
In Tallahassee, the Florida Supreme Court tossed out a request by the state's Department of Children and Families for a 60-day stay so they could investigate 30 allegations of abuse and neglect by Mr. Schiavo. The court said DCF lacked jurisdiction.
The Florida House passed a bill designed to keep doctors from withholding food and water from patients considered to be in a persistent vegetative state, like Terri, and who did not leave specific instructions regarding their care. But state Senators later defeated a separate version of the bill and signaled that they would not compromise.
In a statement released late Thursday, President Bush said: "The case of Terri Schiavo raises complex issues. Yet in instances like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life. Those who live at the mercy of others deserve our special care and concern."
If Terri's feeding tube is removed, doctors expect her to live between seven and 14 days before dying of dehydration and starvation.
The tube has been removed twice in the past.
In April 2001, the tube was reinserted two days after it was removed so Terri's parents could pursue a lawsuit against Mr. Schiavo accusing him of perjury.
In October 2003, Governor Jeb Bush, acting on authority granted him by the Legislature, ordered the feeding tube reinstalled six days after it was removed. The Florida Supreme Court later upheld a lower court ruling which determined that the law was unconstitutional.
Disability rights advocates and right-to-life advocates are holding vigils around the clock outside the hospice where Terri is currently staying. Hundreds of advocates have been participating in demonstrations at the Pinellas County Courthouse, the Florida Capitol building, the White House and other locations across the country.
Links to more coverage on today's "Below The Fold" page:
"Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)