Terri Schiavo Battle Prompts Call to Protect Disabled Patients

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 1, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Terri Schiavo Battle Prompts Call to Protect Disabled Patients Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
April 1
, 2005

Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — The painful starvation death of Terri Schiavo has prompted Congressional lawmakers as well as pro-life and disability rights groups to renew their call to offer legal protection to the disabled and other vulnerable people who may be at risk of euthanasia.

A Senate health committee next week plans a hearing on the issue surrounding Terri Schiavo’s plight and both the House and Senate may consider broader legislation seeking to protect disabled people in similar situations.

House Judiciary Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, told Scripps Howard News Service that he hoped Terri’s death "should serve as an inspiration and impetus for action."

He called on the House and Senate to pass the Protection of Incapacitated Persons Act "to assist those whose circumstances mirror Terri Schiavo’s and ensure others with disabilities do not receive the same treatment by our legal system."

"The sad case of Terri Schiavo has compelled many Americans to take a closer look at end-of-life issues and how they are made," Florida Congressman Dave Weldon said.

Weldon, who introduced the measure with Sensenbrenner in early March, said he was concerned that "for the first time, we have actively ended the life of another human being with a legal standard less than for inmates on death row."

"In the case of incapacitated individuals, like Terri, the courts have taken the dangerous step of applying a much lesser standard of proof in order to deprive individuals of their constitutional rights," Weldon added.

In the Senate, Florida Republican Mel Martinez and Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin are looking at their own version of a bill.

Their bill would provide federal court reviews in cases when the medical treatment desire of individuals is not known and the patient’s family has a dispute over the care.

Any legislation passed to prevent further euthanasia deaths likely has the support of the president.

After Terri’s death, President George W. Bush on Thursday called on Americans to "work to build a culture of life, where all Americans are welcomed and valued and protected, especially those who live at the mercy of others."

The Terri Schiavo saga may prompt state legislatures to take a new look at laws on guardianship and end of life issues. In cases like Terri’s, some say her parents should have been granted the right to make her medical decisions.
"In my view, the most material question is the status of a guardian," Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University, told Fox News.

"I personally believe that the Schindlers had good ground to question whether Michael Schiavo should have continued as the guardian after he formed a new family with another woman and ultimately had two children by that individual," Turley said.