Disability Groups File With Governor Bush In Schiavo Case
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 13, 2004
TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA--A coalition of 18 disability groups filed an amicus ("friend of the court") brief Monday supporting Governor Jeb Bush in the upcoming Florida Supreme Court case over "Terri's Law".
The brief asked the court to reverse a decision by a lower court which ruled in May that the governor overstepped his bounds when he urged the Legislature to pass the law in October, thereby sparing the life of Terri Schiavo. The law directed a feeding tube to be reinserted into Terri's stomach six days after it had been removed under a court order at the request of her husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo.
Mr. Schiavo sued the governor, claiming the law violated the Florida Constitution, along with Terri's right to privacy. Michael has insisted for several years that Terri told him -- before her brain injury 14 years ago -- that she would not want to live "by artificial means". Mr. Schiavo and several doctors insist that she is in a "persistent vegetative state", is not aware of her surroundings, cannot respond to others and will not improve.
Others, including Terri's parents, insist that she responds to them and tries to interact with her environment. They claim that Mr. Schiavo wants her to die for his own benefit, not Terri's.
Disability groups have been actively following Terri's situation for several years. Many see her case as one of thousands in which the rights of a person with a disability to continue living are compromised or ignored by third parties -- such as guardians and health care professionals -- who would rather let them die for their own reasons, and by courts that have placed privacy concerns above a persons right to live.
The brief reads: "This case raises a significant question of law: whether the Florida Legislature may act prospectively to protect the civil rights of persons with disabilities when a court has ordered withdrawal of life-sustaining medical treatment of an incapacitated, disabled woman in a manner the Legislature -- and the overwhelming majority of people with disabilities -- viewed as contrary to the womans fundamental constitutional rights."
"In their respective roles as representatives of and civil rights advocates for the disability community and people who have had similar experiences to Ms. Schiavo's, proposed Amici have been intimately involved in the issues before this Court concerning the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment from people who are incompetent as a result of a medical condition or disability."
Max Lapertosa, an attorney representing the groups, said in a press statement, "A judge's order to terminate the life of a woman with severe disabilities is not a private family matter."
"Terminating Ms. Schiavo's life support would not be possible without the authority of the courts," Lapertosa added. "This case reflects whether our society and legal system value the lives of people with disabilities equally to those without disabilities."
Twelve of the organizations had filed a brief with Pinellas County Circuit Court on behalf of Terri's parents on October 6, just 10 days before her feeding tube was removed. Those organizations are Not Dead Yet, ADAPT, American Association of People with Disabilities, Center on Human Policy at Syracuse University, Center for Self-Determination, Hospice Patients' Alliance, National Council on Independent Living, National Spinal Cord Injury Association, Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered, TASH, World Association of Persons with Disabilities, and World Institute on Disability.
They were joined in this amicus brief by The Arc of the United States, Disability Rights Center, Freedom Clearinghouse, Mouth Magazine, National Disabled Students Union, and the Society for Disability Studies.
Arguments are scheduled to take place before the Florida Supreme Court on August 31.
"Motion for leave of Not Dead Yet et al. to file brief Amici Curiae in support of Appellant and requesting reversal" (Florida Supreme Court)
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Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation
"Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)