by Steven Ertelt
August 31, 2004
Tallahassee, FL (LifeNews.com) — The Florida legislature might still be able to save Terri Schiavo’s life if the Florida Supreme Court strikes down Terri’s Law, the measure that allowed Governor Jeb Bush to ask doctors to reinsert Terri’s feeding tube.
While the oral arguments in Tuesday’s hearing focus on the question of whether the law violated the separation of powers, more than one judge raised the possibility that the Florida state legislature could put forward another proposal that protects the right of people with disabilities.
"While we must await the court’s actual decision, the arguments suggest that even if the court strikes down this particular law, there might still be an avenue by which the legislature could save Terri Schindler-Schiavo’s life," said Burke Balch of the National Right to Life Committee.
Balch, who directs NRLC’s department of medical ethics, said the Florida legislature could "clarify existing statutory and judicial decisions setting the standards for making medical treatment decisions."
A previous Florida Supreme Court decision prevents the legislature from passing a law to ensure that disabled patients always receive food and water, though that opinion highlighted the need for "reliable" evidence of a patient’s wishes.
Balch says the legislature could pass a measure saying that any attempt to deny a patient food and water must be based on informed consent.
Since Terri Schiavo could not provide consent to remove her feeding tube, doctors must keep it in place, under such legislation.
Florida state Senator Steven Wise introduced a bill (SB 692) to accomplish that in the last legislative session, but it never received a vote.
Whether the legislature would have enough time to pass a law if Terri’s feeding tube is removed again is a considerable question. Governor Bush could call a special session of the legislature, but some lawmakers who backed Terri’s Law have already said they would be reluctant to revisit the controversial case.
Meanwhile, pro-life advocates hope the Florida Supreme Court will defer to the legislature and uphold Terri’s Law.
The American Center for Law and Justice, a pro-life law firm representing Terri’s parents, said the court should uphold Terri’s Law.
"Gov. Bush had the constitutional authority to seek to save Terri’s life. The Florida legislature responded in the only appropriate way," Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ, said in a press conference outside the court.
"Our arguments are clear: the lower court ignored Florida law in declaring ‘Terri’s Law’ unconstitutional. Without question, the legislature and the governor acted properly and constitutionally in protecting the life of Terri Schiavo, and we are hopeful the Florida Supreme Court will not remove the only measure that is keeping Terri alive," Sekulow added.