Disabled Groups File Brief Backing Law That Saved Terri Schiavo

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 13, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Disabled Groups File Brief Backing Law That Saved Terri Schiavo

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
July 13, 2004

Tallahassee, FL (LifeNews.com) — A group of seventeen disability rights organizations filed a brief today defending Terri’s Law, the measure passed by the state legislature that allowed Florida Governor Jeb Bush to save Terri Schiavo’s life.

The organizations, including Not Dead Yet and the Hospice Patients Alliance, say the Terri Schiavo case is one that could set a key legal precedent "that affects the rights of people with cognitive disabilities across Florida and, potentially, nationwide."

The brief urges the Florida Supreme Court to affirm Terri’s right to food and water and overturn a judge’s decision allowing Terri’s estranged husband Michael to starve her to death.

"A judge’s order to terminate the life of a woman with severe disabilities is not a private family matter," says Max Lapertosa, an attorney representing the coalition of organizations.

"Terminating Ms. Schiavo’s life support would not be possible without the authority of the courts," Lapertosa added. "This case reflects whether our society and legal system value the lives of people with disabilities equally to those without disabilities."

Meanwhile, the parents of Terri Schiavo have filed an appeal of a local judge’s decision denying them standing to participate in the lawsuit.

Although Terri’s parents can file an amicus brief for the court to consider, Circuit Court Judge Douglas Baird prevented them from becoming a party in the lawsuit to help Bush’s attorneys defend it in court.

Comprised of the some of the top disabled rights groups in the country, the disability organizations said in a collective statement that "the standards upon which Ms. Schiavo’s life or death turn may, if defined broadly enough, also be applied to thousands of people with disabilities who, like Ms. Schiavo, cannot readily articulate their own views and must rely on third parties as substitute decision-makers."

"The need for limits on the powers of such decision makers is nowhere more clear that on a question as fundamental as life or death, because the consequences of abuse or misjudgment are both ultimate and irreversible," the statement said.

The organizations don’t want a court or a third-party deciding what kind of lifesaving medical treatment a patient would have wanted. Too often, the assumption is made that the patient would have declined appropriate medical care.

The 17 disability groups defending Terri’s Law include:
Not Dead Yet, ADAPT, Arc of the United States (formerly the Association for Retarded Citizens), ADAPT, Center on Self-Determination, Center on Human Policy at Syracuse University, Disability Rights Center, Freedom Clearinghouse, Hospice Patients Alliance, Mouth Magazine, National Council on Independent Living, National Disabled Students Union, National Spinal Cord Injury Association, Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered, Society for Disability Studies, TASH (formerly The Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps), World Association of Persons with Disabilities, and World Institute on Disability.

Related web sites:
Hospice Patients Alliance – https://www.hospicepatients.org
Not Dead Yet – https://www.notdeadyet.org
Terri Schiavo’s parents – https://www.terrisfight.org