Law Helping Terri Schiavo Could be Overturned Thanks to Court Decision

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 24, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Law Helping Terri Schiavo Could be Overturned Thanks to Court Decision

by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 24, 2004

Lakeland, FL ( — A Florida appeals court decision could pave the way to declaring Terri’s Law unconstitutional. On Friday, the Second District Court of Appeals affirmed Douglas Baird’s decision to keep the lawsuit filed by Terri’s estranged husband Michael in his court.

The decision sets the stage for Judge Baird to issue a ruling on the law that allowed Governor Jeb Bush to ask doctors to reinsert Terri’s feeding tube, preventing Michael from taking her life. Judge Baird has already said that Terri’s law is "presumptively unconstitutional."

"Today’s action by the Second District Court of Appeals paves the way for Judge Baird to summarily pass judgment that Terri’s Law is unconstitutional," said Pamela Hennessy, a representative of Terri’s family.

Attorneys for Governor Bush had argued that the lawsuit should have been filed in Tallahassee, the state capital, since Bush is the defendant. They also said the governor had not been properly served with the lawsuit.

As expected, the appeals court said that the governor’s legal team should have raised those issues in an emergency hearing with a judge shortly after the lawsuit was filed.

Camille Godwin, a Bush attorney, told the Associated Press that she was not surprised by the appeals court’s decision.

"We had a good-faith basis to appeal and we certainly tried," she said.

George Felos, the assisted suicide advocate who is Michael’s attorney, has asked Baird to issue a summary judgment ruling throwing out the law.

Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which is assisting Felos in the case, applauded the decision. Simon said Bush is "running out of delaying tactics."

Meanwhile, Bush attorneys are hoping Baird will let them depose witnesses in an attempt to defend the law.

Bush attorney Ken Connor, former president of the pro-life Family Research Council, says establishing that Terri would not have wanted to be killed is important to defending Terri’s Law. Questioning witnesses, including Terri’s younger brother Bobby, Michael and the woman with whom Michael is living, could help their case.

Michael claimed — years after Terri’s collapse and only after their estate was awarded a $1 million medical malpractice judgment — that he remembered a supposed conversation where Terri indicated she didn’t want extra measures taken to prolong her life.

However, a good friend of Terri’s vividly remembers watching a television program with Terri about a woman who was in a coma for years. Terri was upset when she told a joke about the woman and said there was no way doctors or lawyers could know the woman’s wishes.

"Where there is life, there is hope," Terri told her friend.

The money was supposed to be used to take care of Terri, but much of it has been used for Michael’s legal bills and her parents say Terri has never received appropriate medical care or rehabilitative therapy.

If Baird rules the law unconstitutional, Michael will be able to remove her feeding tube for a third time, possibly causing her death.

Related web sites:
Appeals court ruling –,%202004/2D03-5123.pdf
Terri Schiavo’s family –