Gov. Bush Orders Feed
Into Brain Damaged Fla. Woman
The Associated Press
Tuesday, October 21, 2003; 5:48 PM
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Invoking a law rushed through the Legislature earlier in the day, Gov. Jeb Bush on Tuesday ordered a feeding tube reinserted into a brain-damaged woman at the center of one of the nation's longest and most bitter right-to-die battles.
The bill was designed to save the life of Terri Schiavo, whose parents have fought to keep her alive. Her husband, Michael Schiavo, says she would rather die.
The Senate voted 23-15 for the legislation, and the House passed the final version 73-24 only minutes later. Bush signed it into law and issued the order just more than an hour later.
Schiavo's feeding tube was removed last Wednesday. Doctors have said the 39-year-old woman will die within a week to 10 days without food and water.
After the Senate's vote, a cheer went up among about 80 protesters outside Terri Schiavo's hospice in Pinellas Park.
"We are just ecstatic," Bob Schindler said after Bush told him he would issue the order that will keep his daughter alive. "It's restored my belief in God."
George Felos, a lawyer for Michael Schiavo, took steps to stop Bush even before the governor received the bill. He filed a request for an injunction if Bush issued an order. Pinellas Circuit Court Judge George Greer denied it on technical grounds, but said Felos could refile the request.
In the Senate, even some supporters of the legislation expressed concern about their actions.
"I keep on thinking 'What if Terri didn't really want this done at all?' May God have mercy on all of us," said Senate President Jim King, a Republican.
Lawmakers were already called to the Capitol for a special session on economic development when they decided to intervene in the case.
Bush said he did not think lawmakers were motivated by politics.
Suzanne Carr, Terri Schiavo's sister, called the development "a miracle, an absolute miracle."
Earlier in Tampa, U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday denied a request by an advocacy group that Schiavo be kept alive so it could investigate whether removal of the tube was abusive.
Merryday wrote that federal courts -- other than the U.S. Supreme Court -- are forbidden from interjecting themselves into matters already decided by state courts. He also said the group failed to provide enough evidence to support its request.
The bill sent to Bush was designed to be as narrow as possible. It is limited to cases in which the patient left no living will, is in a persistent vegetative state, has had nutrition and hydration tubes removed and where a family member has challenged the removal.
Court-appointed doctors have described Schiavo as being in a vegetative state, caused when her heart stopped in 1990 from a suspected chemical imbalance.
Bush last week promised the woman's parents that he would help them if he could find a way.
The Florida Supreme Court has twice refused to hear the case, and it also has been rejected for review by the U.S. Supreme Court. Last week, a Florida appeals court again refused to block removal of the tube.
Felos said he thinks the legislation would be unconstitutional. It is Terri Schiavo's right under the Florida Constitution to not be kept alive artificially, and the courts have affirmed that, he said.
During a two-hour debate in the House, several Democrats argued that the Constitution does not let the Legislature give the governor the power to overrule the courts.
"This bill so oversteps our role it ... turns democracy on its head," said Rep. Dan Gelber, a Democrat.
But many Republicans and some Democrats said they need to be involved in dire cases where judges might be wrong.
"The Constitution is supposed to protect the people of this state," said Rep. Sandy Murman, a Republican from Tampa. "Who is protecting this girl?"
"This is a response to a tragic situation." Bush said. "People are responding to cries for help and I think it's legitimate."
Opponents said government was stepping in where it had no business being.
"I do not believe the governor of Florida should be making a decision of life and death rather than the next of kin," said Sen. Steven Geller, a Democrat.
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