Senate Committee Hearing on Terri Schiavo, Disabled Care Divided

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 7, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senate Committee Hearing on Terri Schiavo, Disabled Care Divided Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 7
, 2005

Washington, DC ( — A Senate health committee held hearings on the plight of Terri Schiavo and end of life care on Wednesday. The meeting was marked by partisan division as lawmakers sparred over the best way to address patient treatment issues.

Chairman Mike Enzi, a Republican from Wyoming, presided over the meeting. He told those attending that ”the national dialogue that began with Terri Schiavo must continue so that many more American families will discuss and document their beliefs and desires about what healthcare measures they would want following a catastrophic injury or illness.”

"Although Terri Schiavo very dramatically brought these issues to the attention of the nation, their importance did not fade or diminish with her loss," Enzi added.

However, Senator Ted Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, wasted no time in attacking the Senate for passing a bill to stop Terri’s painful 13 day starvation death.

”Republican leaders abused their positions of power to play politics with Terri Schiavo’s life,” he said, according to an Inter Press Service report.

Kennedy also bashed Republicans who have called for a review of the judges who failed to abide by the law Congress overwhelmingly approved.

The meeting included experts in neurology, disabilities and hospice care and could be the first step in passing a proposed bill that would help patients like Terri.

J. Donald Schumacher of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Association urged Congress to pass legislation that would provide incentives for Medicare recipients and their doctors to discuss end of life care.

Meanwhile, Florida Republican Mel Martinez and Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin have proposed legislation that 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.

House leaders are putting forward a similar bill.

House Judiciary Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, and Florida Republican Dave Weldon, a doctor, introduced the House version in March.

Sensenbrenner 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."

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."