Nebraska Voters Will Consider State Initiative Protecting Disabled Patients

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 31, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Nebraska Voters Will Consider State Initiative Protecting Disabled Patients Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 31
, 2006

Lincoln, NE ( —
This November, voters in Nebraska will consider a measure that would offer protect to disabled patients like Terri Schiavo. The initiative makes sure patients who are unable to eat and drink on their own are not denied food and water, which pro-life groups consider basic necessities and not medical treatment.

Called the "Humane Care Initiative" pro-life groups are supporting the measure, including the National Right to Life Committee.

The initiative would presume that patients would have wanted food and water in cases when there is no advanced directive indicating one way or the other. It would ensure patients aren’t starved to death unless they previously said they don’t want the provisions.

The pro-life group says food wand water "should be provided to all to the full extent necessary to preserve life and assure the optimal health possible."

The organization says that, for years, patients who have had no desire to end their lives have been denied food and water "have been quietly starved without much public attention, based on state laws and court opinions that permit third parties to make deadly decisions with little or no scrutiny or accountability."

The case of Terri Schiavo, where her former husband won the right to subject her to a painful 13-day starvation and dehydration death, sparked a national debate about care for the disabled.

NRLC says the Nebraska initiative is needed to reverse the trend that favors death via starvation and dehydration over a presumption of life for the disabled.

Not surprisingly, Compassion & Choices, formerly the Hemlock Society, opposes the Nebraska state initiative.

The group claims it would allow courts and other third parties to intrude on a family’s medical decisions.

"Compassion & Choices has taken the lead nationally to oppose these health decision restriction efforts," the group said in a statement on its web site. "We are committed to defeating the measure, making our resources and information available to any organized opposition effort that develops."

The text of the initiative, would amend the Nebraska state constitution to say, "The fundamental human right to food and water should not be denied to any person."

"No entity with a legal duty of care for a person within its custody," it continues, "may refuse, deny, or fail to provide food and water sustenance and nourishment, however delivered, to any such person."

The amendment says the state will honor any living will or other legal document signed by a patient saying he does not want food and water.

Related web sites:
National Right to Life –
Nebraska Right to Life –
Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation –