Florida House Passes Bill to Save Terri’s Life, Senate Votes Tuesday

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 20, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Florida House Passes Bill to Save Terri’s Life, Senate Votes Tuesday

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
October 20, 2003

Pinellas Park, FL (LifeNews.com) — The Florida House of Representatives voted tonight 68-23 to pass "Terri’s Law." The legislation would place a moratorium on deaths by starvation or dehydration and allow Governor Jeb Bush to immediately order Terri’s feeding tube to be reinserted. The Senate will consider the bill tomorrow.

Pat Anderson, Bob and Mary Schindler’s attorney, said she was "dumbfounded" by the vote and Terri’s parents hoped for something like this to help their daughter.

"Normally it takes the legislature somewhat longer to come together and solve a problem than 18 hours,” she said. "I guess everybody is kind of riled up about this.”

"The proposed bill would allow for a stay in cases of withholding nutrition and hydration from patients in situations similar to that of Ms. Schiavo," Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) explained. "President King, Speaker Byrd, and others in the Legislature recognize the unique and tragic circumstances of Ms. Schiavo’s case, and I am hopeful the Legislature will pass a bill immediately."

Terri’s feeding tube was removed last Wednesday after a court order by Judge George Greer allowed her husband Michael’s request that her life be ended. Terri’s family says she is responsive to them, is not in a persistive vegetative state, and they say Michael may have physically abused her.

Jim King, president of the state Senate, appeared to have a change of heart Monday, as members of Terri’s family said he originally opposed the legislation.

"If we are to err — because time is of the essence — for goodness sake let us err on the side of caution," King told the Associated Press.

House Speaker Johnnie Byrd helped facilitate negotiations on Monday that may have led to King’s turnaround.

King has the state Senate meeting on Tuesday to consider the bill.

Byrd said the bill would put in place a moratorium on the removal of food and water from those patients who did not have an advance written directive and only in cases where members of the patient’s family can’t agree on the appropriate medical care.

The legislation would give Bush 15 days to order the reinsertion of the feeding tube and he is expected to do just that as soon as the legislation is approved.

"So it would be a very, very narrow approach, but it would be one that would apply to Terri’s case," Bryd said.

Terri’s parents and siblings hope the legislature will be able to work something out, and quickly.

"Our family prays that the members, including Senate President Jim King, will put any politics aside and approve this bill for the sake of Terri’s life and also for the sake of future Terri Schiavos," said sister Suzanne Carr.

George Felos, the assisted suicide advocate who is Michael’s lead attorney, says he doesn’t believe the legislature can intervene.

"I don’t believe that the Legislature has the authority to interfere," Felos said. "I don’t think it would withstand constitutional scrutiny."

Felos could challenge both the legislation and Bush’s order to reinsert the tube. If that happens, Terri’s family must put their hope back into a court system that has continually sided with Michael’s decision to end Terri’s life.

In a statement Monday released through one of his attorneys, Michael Schiavo said he is also grieving for Terri but, "I did what I believe Terri would have wanted me to do.”

"There is no longer any realistic hope of Terri’s recovery," Michael Schiavo continued. "Perhaps there never was, but I had to try — just as the Schindlers have tried. The reality is that Terri left us 13 years ago, and none of us can bring her back."

Related web sites:
Terri’s Law – https://www.myfloridahouse.com/BillInfo.aspx?bID=12713
Bob and Marcy Schindler – https://www.terrisfight.org