Senate Unanimously Passes Compromise Bill to Help Terri Schiavo

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 21, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senate Unanimously Passes Compromise Bill to Help Terri Schiavo Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 21, 2005

Washington, DC ( — Members of the Senate passed a compromise bill fashioned under a deal reached by House and Senate leaders over the weekend. The measure would allow Terri Schiavo’s parents to take their case to prevent her starvation death to federal courts.

"It gives Terri Schiavo another chance,” Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, told reporters after the vote. "It guarantees a process to help Terri, but does not guarantee a particular outcome.”

"These are extraordinary circumstances that center on the most fundamental of human values and virtues: the sanctity of human life," Frist added.

The Senate approved the measure unanimously on a voice vote.

Meanwhile, House members had to overcome objections to the bill from House Democrats, who decided against approving the bill on a voice vote and forced House members to return to Washington from the beginning of their Easter recess to cast a vote.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay blasted the stalling lawmakers, who refused to approve the bill without a roll call vote.

"Time is not on Terri Schiavo’s side,” DeLay said, according to an Associated Press report. "The few remaining objecting House Democrats have so far cost Mrs. Schiavo two meals already today.”

DeLay indicated that the federal district court in Florida has been told that a petition to take the Schindlers’ case will be filed shortly after President Bush signs the legislation.

David Gibbs, an attorney for the Schindlers, filed a request for an emergency injunction to be acted upon as soon as a judge agrees to take the case.

Barbara Weller, another attorney for Terri Schiavo’s family, notified Woodside Hospice, where Terri lives, that the feeding tube may be reinserted soon. Mary Schindler urged House lawmakers to pass the bill protecting her daughter.

"There are some congressmen that are trying to stop this bill," Schiavo’s mother Mary Schindler said. "Please don’t use my daughter’s suffering for your own personal agenda."

Yet, Brian Schiavo, Michael’s brother, blasted anyone who agrees with Terri’s family that Terri responds and interacts.

"Anybody that thinks that she talks and responds, they need to have a mental health examination," he told the Scotsman newspaper.

If a federal judge takes the case, Terri’s feeding tube could be put back in case while the lawsuit proceeds.

Hamden Baskin, an attorney for Terri’s estranged husband Michael, told CNN that Michael may pursue having Terri’s bill be declared unconstitutional.

"It is in our opinion an absolute attack on the notion that we have separation of powers between the co-equal branches of government," Basking said. That’s the same argument the Florida Supreme Court used to strike down legislation approved by the Florida state legislature the last time Terri’s feeding tube was removed in late 2003.

President Bush also headed to Washington, expecting the House legislation to pass. He has indicated he will sign the legislation.

"We ought to err on the side of life in a case like this,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reported. Asked about the bill only covering one person, he said, "I think most people recognize that this case involves some extraordinary circumstances.”

Responding to possible objections from Democrats, the Terri measure specifically says it does not affect state assisted suicide laws, such as Oregon’s, and sets no legal precedent.

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