Disability Rights Groups Upset by Florida Court Decision on Terri Schiavo

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 26, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Disability Rights Groups Upset by Florida Court Decision on Terri Schiavo Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
September 26, 2004

Tallahassee, FL (LifeNews.com) — The decision by the Florida Supreme Court to overturn the law that would prevent Terri Schiavo from being starved to death is not going over well with national activists for the disabled.

The state’s high court unanimously ruled last week that Terri’s Law violated the separation of powers clause in the state constitution and essentially allowed the state legislature to authorize Governor Jeb Bush to overturn a lower court decision ending Terri’s life.

"The court in this case has obviously put the constitutional principle of separation of powers over the individual’s right to due process," said Diane Coleman, president of Not Dead Yet, a national disability rights group. "The court is more interested in protecting its turf than the people that occupy that turf."

In addition to Not Dead Yet, sixteen national groups that advocate for the disabled, including the Arc of the United States and TASH, supported the legislation to keep Terri Schiavo alive.

Those two groups represent the interests of people with significant intellectual disabilities similar to Terri’s.

Coleman says her organization is concerned about the Schiavo case because its legal impact could be felt by millions of disabled Americans nationwide.

While the media has largely presented the battle over Terri as one between pro-life groups and euthanasia advocates, Coleman says the interests of those with disabilities are being ignored.

"What has been ignored are organizations representing the millions of people in guardianship like Terri Schiavo and whose legal rights will be dramatically affected by this case," Not Dead Yet said in a statement.

"Just as Terri Schiavo’s life is being devalued and marginalized, even to the point of imposing
a painful death through dehydration that she did not ask for, the voices of the disability community she belongs to have also been marginalized in the press," the disability group said.

Coleman likened Michael’s lawsuit seeking to overturn Terri’s Law to a death penalty case. However, in Terri’s situation, the governor is shut out of the process.

"This is like a death penalty case in which the evidence shows that the convicted defendant was innocent, but no technical legal error was made," Coleman said. "In such a case, the Governor could issue a pardon, but for Terri, the Court slammed the door in her face."

Disability rights groups have filed amicus briefs in three separate lawsuits in favor of Terri Schiavo’s right to live.