Bill to Protect Terri Schiavo Gets Florida State House Approval

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 17, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Bill to Protect Terri Schiavo Gets Florida State House Approval

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 17, 2005

Tallahassee, FL ( — The Florida state House on Thursday passed legislation aimed at protecting Terri Schiavo. The vote comes less than 24 hours until the disabled woman is scheduled to be starved to death in a painful 7-10 day long process.

The legislation would prevent doctors or 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 not previously issued an advance directive authorizing it to be withheld.

The measure passed on a mostly party-line 78-37 vote with Republicans backing it and Democrats opposing the proposal.

The Senate has begun debate on a more limited bill that would do the same thing, but only in cases where family members disagreed on whether to maintain the feeding tube.

That could pose a problem as House members say the Senate’s version has unconstitutional provisions in it. If both chambers can’t agree on a final bill, it could complicate efforts to prevent Terri’s death.

If the Senate passes its bill, the House could decide to approve that measure instead of asking the Senate to approve the one it passed.

Once a final bill clears the legislature, Governor Jeb Bush is ready to sign it.

"We have a responsibility to act, to deal with this issue," Bush said Thursday, according to an Associated Press report. "It breaks my heart we’re in a situation where it’s possible this woman could starve to death."

Members of the Florida house defended their decision to pass the bill.

"This provides a safety net where the government stands up for the vulnerable who don’t otherwise have a voice," said Republican Rep. Kevin Ambler, AP reported.

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.

Related web sites:
Terri Schiavo’s parents –
Florida state legislature –