by Steven Ertelt
March 15, 2005
Tallahassee, FL (LifeNews.com) — Legislation designed to protect Terri Schiavo and other disabled people who haven’t indicated their wishes for medical treatment heads to the full Florida House after clearing its final committee hurdle. If passed, it could prevent Terri’s estranged husband from starting a painful week-long starvation process that would ultimately kill her.
The House Health and Families Council Committee voted Tuesday morning in favor of HB 701.
The 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 prevent her death or the death of any similar patient.
The bill now moves to a Thursday vote on the House floor and, if approved, would move immediately to the Senate floor for a vote. Governor Jeb Bush is expected to sign the measure into law.
"It is a statement of public policy that, in this culture, we don’t starve people to death," said Rep. Dennis Baxley, a Republican sponsoring the bill, told the St. Petersburg Times newspaper.
Pamela Hennessy, a representative of Terri’s parents Bob and Mary Schindler, applauded the vote and said she appreciated "everyone who contacted members of the Florida House to encourage favorable treatment of this very important bill to protect the lives and rights of Florida’s disabled community."
The Florida legislature passed a previous bill in late 2003 days after Terri’s feeding tube was removed for a second time. That bill, aimed specifically at her and authorizing Governor Bush to ask doctors to reinsert the tube, was ultimately declared unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court.
The Florida House Health Care Regulation and Judiciary Committees previously approved the bill.