Governor Bush Weighs In On Terri Schiavo's Right To Swallowing
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 8, 2003
TAMPA, FLORIDA--In a 12-page legal brief filed late Monday, Florida Governor Jeb Bush sided with the parents of Terri Schiavo, claiming that the 39-year-old woman has the right to receive swallowing therapies so she can be spoon-fed before her feeding tube is removed.
Bush's amicus ("friend of the court") brief, filed in U.S. District Court, argued that the court would violate Terri's right to life under the U.S. and Florida Constitutions if it were to assume "that her wish to live without artificial sustenance is the same as her wish not to be fed at all."
Terri's husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo, claims that his wife told him before her brain 1990 injury that she would not want to live "by artificial means". Pinellas Circuit Court Judge George Greer has consistently sided with Mr. Schiavo's wishes to remove Terri's feeding tube, and has scheduled the removal for October 15.
"Terri has not lost the right to be fed naturally," Bush's document said. "Just as nursing a baby or hand feeding an elderly arthritis-sufferer or a quadriplegic person is not 'medical' intervention, so hand feeding a severely disabled woman is not a 'medical' intervention."
State law recognizes that Terri's "persistent vegetative state" will not in itself cause her death, the brief added, noting that Judge Greer was incorrect to conclude that Terri is "terminal".
"The fact that she is unable to give herself nourishment is not a symptom of a dying body," the governor's brief said. "It is the result of severe injury and disability."
Bush weighed in partly because he "feels compelled to give voice to the thousands of Floridians who have communicated to him their concern over the case." The governor has reportedly received upwards of 40,000 responses to an Internet petition asking for him to intervene in the case. While Bush has no authority with the federal court, his involvement may carry some influence.
According to the Associated Press, the brief cites a New York appellate court case that distinguished between suicide and the removal of artificial feeding tubes. That court ruled that suicide requires a person to want to die, but that a patient who refuses life-support might simply be choosing to live without mechanical devices and allowing nature to run its course.
Terri collapsed and her brain was without oxygen for several minutes in February 1990. Some doctors claim Terri has since been in a "persistent vegetative state", and that she will not improve. She breathes on her own, but receives food and water through a gastronomy tube installed in the wall of her stomach.
Terri's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, claim Terri is alert, responsive and could benefit from rehabilitative therapies, including speech and swallowing programs -- all of which Michael Schiavo has refused to allow. The Schindlers claim that Michael wants Terri to die, in part, so he will be able to take advantage of what is left of a $700,000 insurance settlement.
U.S. District Judge Richard Lazzara has scheduled a hearing on the Schindlers' federal suit against Mr. Schiavo for this coming Friday.
Also on Monday, a brief was filed by 14 disability groups and individuals supporting Terri's right to live.
"Governor Jeb Bush Amicus Memorandum"
http://www.zimp.org/100603ab.pdf (Required Adobe Acrobat Reader)
Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation
"Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express)