Florida Legislature to Consider Bill Helping Others Like Terri Schiavo

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 2, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Florida Legislature to Consider Bill Helping Others Like Terri Schiavo

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
February 2, 2004

Tallahassee, FL (LifeNews.com) — On Tuesday, members of the Florida state legislature will hold a hearing on pro-life legislation designed to help people who are in similar situations as Terri Schiavo, the woman who has been the subject of a national debate as her estranged husband attempts to end her life.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Senate Bill 692, which 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) proposed the legislation 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.

However, the legislation could run into difficulty should it clear the Senate committee.

Senator Jim King (R), president of the state Senate, is not pro-life and had to be talked into supporting Terri’s Law. He said in January that it would be unlikely that he would bring the bill up on the Senate floor for a debate and vote.

The chances are "remote if not nonexistent," King said. "I have no desire to revisit [the issue of Terri Schiavo]."

King, who authored a Florida euthanasia law considered a national model, previously 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."

"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," Pat Anderson, attorney for Terri’s family, said previously in response to King’s comments. "If protective legislation like this had been Florida law during Terri’s trial, we wouldn’t be here today."

King said the bill would never get a hearing, so pro-life advocates are holding out hope that King will let the legislation come up for debate if it is approved by the judicial committee.

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.”

ACTION: 1) Contact Florida Senate President Jim King and urge him to allow SB 692 to come up for a vote on the Senate floor should it pass in committee. 2) Contact members of the Florida Senate Judiciary and urge them to support SB 692. Go to https://www.flsenate.gov/cgi-bin/View_Page.pl?Tab=committees&Submenu=1&File=index.html&Directory=committees/senate/ju to see members of the committee.

Related web sites:
Terri’s family – https://www.terrisfight.org
Wise’s bill – https://www.flsenate.gov/session/index.cfm?BI_Mode=ViewBillInfo&Mode=Bills&SubMenu=1&Year=2004&billnum=692