Howard Dean Attacks Bush Decision to Save Terri Schiavo’s Life

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 7, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Howard Dean Attacks Bush Decision to Save Terri Schiavo’s Life

by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 7, 2003

Pinellas Park, FL ( — For the most part, the presidential candidates have stayed out of the debate surrounding Terri Schiavo’s life.

Earlier, President George W. Bush indicated he backed the decision to save Terri and reinsert her feeding tube and Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) said he supported her as well.

Now, Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean, a doctor by profession, is using his vocation to back Michael Schiavo’s contention that Terri would want to die and that the feeding tube allowing her to live should be removed.

Earlier this week, Dean criticized Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) for signing Terri’s Law that allowed him to ask doctors to reinsert her feeding tube.

"What business is it of the government to interfere with a private family matter with a right-to-die case?" asked Dean. "I am tired of people in the Legislature thinking that they have an M.D. with what they really have is a B.S."

He said Florida residents should be "embarrassed" by Bush’s decision.

Bush spokesman Jacob DiPietre said the governor found Dean’s remarks "shameful."

"Gov. Bush doesn’t think that it’s appropriate for a presidential candidate to be so flip about a serious issue that involves not only protecting the rights of the disabled, but also the fundamental right to life that is guaranteed in the Florida Constitution," DiPietre said.

Pamela Hennessy – spokeswoman for Terri’s parents, Robert and Mary Schindler – called Dean’s comments "a monumental display of bad taste in every way imaginable."

"Obviously, he doesn’t know every aspect of the case," Hennessy told the Cybercast News Service, "and I think he’s using it as platform just to take a swing, verbally, at Gov. Bush."

She was not surprised that Dean would oppose the fight to save Terri’s life and provide her with the medical and rehabilitative care that her estranged husband Michael has denied.

Dean is on record supporting assisted suicide, Hennessy explained.

Meanwhile, President Bush said in late October that he agreed with his brother’s decision to save Terri’s life.

"Yes, I believe my brother made the right decision,” President Bush said in response to a reporter’s question at a news conference

Senator Lieberman, who is pro-abortion, also expressed support for Schiavo.

"I believe that certainly in cases where there is not a living will…I feel very strongly that we ought to honor life and we ought not to create a system where people are being deprived of nutrition or hydration in a way that ends their lives," Lieberman said.

While serving as Connecticut attorney general in the mid-1980s, Lieberman was confronted with a case involving a woman whose family sued a nursing home in an effort to starve and dehydrate her. Lieberman argued that the feeding of the woman, who was not fully conscious, be continued.

Although he has only a 5% pro-life rating on abortion-related votes, Lieberman did vote in favor of a pro-life bill to promote pain relief for patients as an alternative to assisted suicide.

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