Fred Thompson: Govt Shouldn’t Intervene in Cases Like Terri Schiavo

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 23, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Fred Thompson: Govt Shouldn’t Intervene in Cases Like Terri Schiavo Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
October 23,

Washington, DC ( — Fred Thompson responded to questions about Terri Schiavo on Monday and said he didn’t think that government should intervene in cases like hers. His comments were the first since saying last month he didn’t recall the details of her painful dehydration and euthanasia death, but he said Monday that he followed her case.

While campaigning in Florida on Monday, Thompson told voters and the media that the loss of his own daughter to an early death helped shape his views on end-of-life issues.

Thompson shared details about the death of his own daughter, Elizabeth "Betsy" Thompson Panici. She died in January 2002 at the age of 38 from a brain injury she suffered after a heart attack resulting from an accidental prescription drug overdose.

"I had to make those decisions with the rest of my family," Thompson said.

"And I will assure you one thing: No matter which decision you make, you will never know whether or not you made exactly the right decision," he said.

The presidential candidate said he likely would never address the issue again and indicated his perspective on how government should be involved.

“Making this into a political football is something that I don’t welcome, and this will probably be the last time I ever address it,” he said.

“It should be decided by the families — the federal government and the state government too, except for the court system, ought to stay out of those matters as far as I am concerned," he added.

Thompson didn’t comment directly on state and federal legislation Congress and the Florida state legislature approved to try to save Terri’s life, but the comments make it appear he opposed those bills.

Thompson was a Tennessee senator at the time of her death and chose not to seek re-election to a second term because his daughter’s death affected him so greatly.

"Obviously, I had heard about the Schiavo case," Thompson added Monday when asked by a reporter if he wanted to revisit his earlier statements about Terri Schiavo, the woman whose former husband won a court order to take her life.

"I had to face a situation like that on a personal level with my own daughter," he said.

"I know this is bandied about as a political issue, and people want to make it such and talk about it in the public marketplace a lot," he explained. "I am a little bit uncomfortable about that, because it’s an intensely personal thing with me. These things need to be decided by the family."

Thompson faced questions about the Schiavo case shortly after he announced his presidential bid for the GOP nomination in September.

"I can’t pass judgment on it. I know that good people were doing what they thought was best,” he said at the time. “That’s going back in history. I don’t remember the details of it.”