Proposal Would Help Terri, Make it Difficult to Remove Feeding Tubes

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 4, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Proposal Would Help Terri, Make it Difficult to Remove Feeding Tubes

by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 4, 2003

Tallahassee, FL ( — A Florida state legislator has proposed a bill that would make it more difficult to remove the feeding tubes from incapacitated patients that do not leave advance directives asking that they receive lifesaving medical treatment.

Sen. Stephen Wise (R-Jacksonville) has proposed Senate Bill 692 which allows food and fluids to be given to those who can’t speak for themselves, such as Terri Schiavo. It requires courts to presume that incapacitated patients would not want to be denied lifesaving medical care even though they had not stated their treatment preference in advance.

Pro-life advocates who are monitoring Terri’s case say the law would help her and others in similar circumstances.

Should the courts find Terri’s Law unconstitutional, Terri will likely be left without protection from Michael’s legal motion to remove her feeding tube for a third time. Wise’s bill would prohibit the courts from granting that motion.

Although the Florida legislature strongly supported Terri’s Law, which allowed Governor Bush to ask doctors to reinsert her feeding tube, Wise’s proposal may be dead on arrival.

Senate President Jim King (R), who authored the Florida euthanasia law considered a national model, says he is opposed to the idea. King told the Tampa Tribune newspaper he didn’t want to "roll back the hands of time" with a bill that "can dismantle what I consider to be my legacy."

King says the pro-life bill will not get a hearing in committee or a debate on the Senate floor.

That doesn’t go over well with Terri’s family.

"Unfortunately, Senator King appears more concerned about leaving his legacy intact than he is about lives of disabled Florida citizens who are at risk of dehydration and starvation," said Pat Anderson, attorney for Terri’s family. "If protective legislation like this had been Florida law during Terri’s trial, we wouldn’t be here today."

Meanwhile, Larry Spalding, a representative of the ACLU, which is helping Michael Schiavo’s attorney George Felos in the case, claims the law would be considered unconstitutional if passed.

Burke Balch, director of medical ethics for the National Right to Life Committee, says Wise’s bill is based on model law proposed by his organization that will withstand legal scrutiny. Balch explained that the bill was written with Florida Supreme Court decisions in mind.

Wise said the Terri Schiavo case prompted him to put forward the legislation.

"The Schiavo case is he- said, she-said, who-said – and she’s not able to talk,” Wise said. "I don’t know who said what. And that’s the issue we wanted to get to — have something in writing.”

Related web sites:
Terri’s family –