President Bush Signs Bill Giving Terri Schiavo’s Parents New Hope

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 22, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

President Bush Signs Bill Giving Terri Schiavo’s Parents New Hope Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 22, 2005

Washington, DC ( — President Bush signed legislation early Monday morning giving Terri Schiavo’s parents new hope and a chance to take their lawsuit seeking to prevent her starvation death to federal courts.

In a statement, Bush said he would "stand on the side of those defending life for all Americans, including those with disabilities."

"In cases like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life," the president said.

Bush’s signature came after the Senate approved the measure by a unanimous voice vote. House members scrambled back to Washington from their Easter recess and voted for it on a wide 203-58 bipartisan margin.

Almost all Republicans and half of Democrats who arrived back to vote supported the bill.

The bill allows Terri Schiavo’s parents to be granted standing in a federal court. They can now ask a federal court to review Florida courts’ decision authorizing Terri’s painful starvation death.

The bill authorizes the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida to "hear, determine and render judgment on a suit or claim by or on behalf of Theresa Marie Schiavo for the alleged violation of any right … relating to the withholding or withdrawal of food, fluids or medical treatment necessary to sustain her life."

Talking about the President’s rationale for signing the measure, White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters on Air Force One, "The president believes that our society should be based on a culture of life."

"And in a society that is based on a culture of life, that means we should protect and defend and welcome life at all stages, and that includes people with disabilities," he added.

Members of Terri’s family and their attorneys were elated by the turn of events.

”We hope to get you some water,” Schindler attorney David Gibbs told the Miami Herald that he said to Terri. "We hope to get you some dinner later on.”

Gibbs said he discussed the impending lawsuit he will file with the federal court in Tampa with staff there and he said they understood the urgency of moving on the case soon.
”The worst possible scenario would be for the President and Congress to pass this and for Terri to pass away in the night before the court opens,” Gibbs told the Herald.

If the feeding tube is reconnected, Terri would need to be taken to a local hospital. Gibbs indicated he has instructed staff at Woodside Hospice to prepare for that eventuality.

Bob Schindler told the media on Sunday that he and Mary visited Terri on Sunday morning and that she appeared to be doing well all things considered.

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.

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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