Fred Thompson Reconfirms Position Against Govt Helping Terri Schiavo

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 5, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Fred Thompson Reconfirms Position Against Govt Helping Terri Schiavo Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 5,

Washington, DC ( — Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson reconfirmed his position on the debate over Terri Schiavo’s life in a Sunday interview. He restated his views that families should make such decisions and reiterated that he did not favor Congress stepping in to try to help save her from a painful euthanasia death.

Thompson told NBC’s "Meet the Press" program that he thinks it should be a family’s decision whether or not to allow a disabled patient to have a feeding tube when they can’t make their own medical decisions.

He told host Tim Russert that he doesn’t think there should be no laws governing such cases, only that he disagreed about Congress’ involvement.

"If there is a family dispute, then there’s courts in, in every state in the nation that you can take a dispute like that to. I said the federal government should not be involved," he explained. "The less government, the better."

When Florida courts sided with Terri’s former husband Michael and his decision to subject her to a painful 13-day death via starvation and dehydration, Congress intervened and let her parents and siblings take their lawsuit to federal courts.

Thompson said Sunday he disagreed with that decision.

"No. Now, you know, keep in mind, now, the, the government didn’t come in and say ‘You got to do this; you got to do that.’ It gave federal court jurisdiction. Federal court didn’t need jurisdiction, in my opinion," he said.

Thompson related the case to that 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.

"These are kinds of things where the, the, the—well, you mentioned it myself, my own personal situation. Let’s just say you never know when you make the right decision, what—it, it wasn’t totally comparable, but it was, it was the same, it was the same general end-of-life kind of consideration," he said.

However, unlike Thompson’s daughter, Terri was not on artificial life support and her family says there was no end-of-life decision because she was healthy and could have lived for many years had her former husband not taken away her food and water.

This is the second time Thompson has addressed the national debate surrounding Terri’s life and death.

Last month, he said he didn’t think that government should intervene in cases like hers.

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

"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.

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.