Florida House Speaker Sides With Gov. Bush In Terri Schiavo
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 10, 2003
TAMPA, FLORIDA--Johnnie Byrd, Speaker of the Florida House, has asked Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge W. Douglas Baird for permission to defend the law which gave Governor Jeb Bush the authority to order Terri Schiavo's feeding tube reinserted on October 21, six days after it had been removed under the same court's order.
Byrd asked for permission to intervene through an amicus ("friend of the court") brief in the suit Michael Schiavo and the American Civil Liberties Union have filed against the governor. The suit claims that the legislature and governor did not have the constitutional authority to overturn the courts' previous rulings which gave Mr. Schiavo permission to have Terri's gastronomy tube removed. Mr. Schiavo, who is Terri's husband and guardian, successfully fought through the courts for permission to remove the feeding tube that has kept his wife alive, according to what he said would have been her wishes.
In his brief filed Monday, Byrd argued that the Florida legislature has the authority to change state laws even if they alter previous court rulings.
"The legislature's role in establishing public policy is paramount and its role in regulating the actions of the other branches is significant," the brief said.
The Speaker also argued that the legislature gave the governor guardianship responsibilities which made it legal for him to act on Terri's behalf.
Terri, 39, collapsed in February 1990 and her brain was without oxygen for several minutes. Since then she has been breathing and regulating her blood pressure on her own, but has been given food and water through the feeding tube installed in her stomach.
The courts have accepted doctors' testimony that Terri has since been in a "persistent vegetative state", in which she cannot feel and from which she cannot recover. They have also accepted Mr. Schiavo's claims that his wife had told him she would not want to be kept alive "by artificial means". Circuit Court Judge George Greer gave him permission to have Terri's feeding tube removed on October 15.
Disability rights advocates and right-to-die supporters flooded the offices of the governor and legislators with over 100,000 messages expressing outrage over Terri's starvation. The governor called a special session for the legislature to pass "Terri's Law", which gave him permission to have the feeding tube reinserted, and for an independent guardian to review her circumstances.
Terri's parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, claim that their daughter laughs at jokes, turns her head, smiles, cries, tries to sit up and talk to them. This summer, they released video clips that show Terri apparently responding to them and even following a balloon across the room with her eyes.
Critics have said that Terri's actions recorded in the video were simply reflex actions and that she has no consistent brain activity.
The Schindlers have affidavits from dozens of medical professionals testifying that Terri may not be in a vegetative condition and that she might improve if her husband would allow her to undergo the rehabilitative therapies which he has refused for more than 10 years. The Schindlers have filed a suit demanding that Mr. Schiavo be removed as Terri's guardian and accusing him of abusing and neglecting his wife. They also claim that he has a number of conflicts of interest, including a live-in relationship with another woman with whom he has fathered two children.
Disability rights advocates have been watching Terri's situation closely for several years. Many note that people with disabilities such as Terri's are condemned to die because others believe they are "better off dead".
The groups have also been frustrated at the popular media's portrayal of Terri as being "comatose" or "brain dead". Most reporters still do not understand that her case involves disability issues -- especially a person's right to live -- rather than a "right-to-die" case as has been presented by Terri's husband.
"Trapped between life & death" (New York Daily News)
"Terri Schiavo's parents discuss their pain, heartache & resolve" (Baptist Press News)
"Terri and Terry: The difficulty of defining a coma" (Associated Press via Lakeland Ledger)
"Schiavo tapes: snippets, then not much" (St. Petersburg Times)
IDE Archives "Terri Schiavo's Right To Live"
Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation