Florida Legislators Agree on Bill to Save Terri Schiavo From Starvation
by Steven Ertelt
March 14, 2005
Tallahassee, FL (LifeNews.com) — Florida lawmakers on Monday reached a deal on legislation that could prevent the beginning of a painful starvation death for Terri Schiavo. Legislators agreed to a modified version of legislation previously introduced to help disabled patients.
The revised bill is expected to have hearings tomorrow and come up for a vote on the House and Senate floors as early as Thursday.
Terri’s estranged husband Michael is allowed to begin the 7-10 day long starvation process Friday afternoon by removing her feeding tube.
The new bill would prevent a legal guardian from allowing a person in a so-called persistent vegetative state to die by withholding food or water. That could only happen if the patient had previously issued an advance directive authorizing it to be withheld.
Although Terri is not in a persistent vegetative state, Florida courts have sided with Michael and ruled that she is in such a medical condition. As a result, the legislation would apply to Terri and supersede the court’s decision to allow her death or the death of any similar patient.
Governor Jed Bush will likely sign the legislation once it receives a final approval. His legal counsel has been working with members of the legislature to fashion the bill, according to an Orlando Sentinel newspaper report.
"If we can pretty much keep it intact, he’ll be on board," Rep. Dennis Bailey, a Republican who is sponsoring the bill in the House, told the Orlando paper.
The revised legislation was created as an alternative to a broader bill that would have required doctors and courts to presume that a patient would want food and water unless specified otherwise in an advance directive.
The newer bill, aimed at legal guardians and only PVS patients, will likely enjoy more support.
The new bill would only allow food and water to be deprived if there is "clear and convincing evidence" that the PVS patient had verbally indicated he did not want it.
House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. David Simmons, told the Orlando paper that was a tough standard to meet.
A casual conversation "sitting around the dinner table, that’s not going to rise to the level that will permit the denial of sustenance and hydration," Simmons said.
That’s the kind of conversation Michael claims he had with Terri and the one courts have favored. They declined to rule in favor of a best friend of Terri who indicated Terri said she would never want food and water to be denied to her.
If approved and signed by the governor, this would be the second time the Florida legislature and Governor Bush have stepped in to save Terri’s life.
The Florida Supreme Court overturned a previous bill more specifically aimed at Terri saying it was a violation of the separation of powers clause in the state constitution.
Republican Sen. Dan Webster, the bill’s sponsor in the Senate, told the Orlando newspaper that this revised bill was drafted to meet the concerns Florida courts cited with the previous one.