15 March 2005

Schiavo bill empowers government over families

In October 2003, the Florida Legislature passed the bill which later became known as "Terri's Law." Terri Schiavo, as you may remember, has been in a persistent vegetative state since 1990 following a heart attack. Physicians have declared that her brain damage is irreversible, and she is unable to live without the help of a feeding tube. Her husband Michael Schiavo originally cared for his wife, but when the doctors said her condition would only deteriorate, he decided that the tube should be removed so Terri could die with dignity. Michael's wife had told him prior to her heart attack that she never wanted to be kept alive by machines.

The 2003 legislation, championed by then Florida House Speaker Johnny Byrd, was specifically drafted so it would only affect one person, Terri Schiavo. Legislation is typically not written to affect only one person, and the courts eventually struck down the bill. The Florida Supreme Court ruled the bill unconstitutional, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case. The legislation that is currently before the Florida Legislature is broadly written in order to avoid any potential constitutional issues. This is why the Floridians should be alarmed.


The two bills in the Florida Legislature, Senate Bill 804 and House Bill 701, are different pieces of legislation, but they have striking similarities. Most importantly, both bills contain provisions where the government may take life and death decisions away from families. If you oppose machines keeping you alive, you must specifically state your wishes in a living will - and this may not be fool-proof. If your living will states that you do not wish to be kept alive by machines, but you fail to specifically mention that you do not wish to be kept alive by a feeding or hydration tube, the government could intervene and overrule your wishes at a time when you can no longer speak for yourself. Essentially, the government is taking important decisions away from Floridians because some Tallahassee politicians think they know better.


Anonymous Stefani said...

This is scary. I can't believe that some politicians want to make all our private decisions for us. I hope that a majority of legislators decide to defend our freedom.

3:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Jesse said...

I can't believe that this horrible situation is still going on. I wish the parents would stop being so selfish and allow their daughter to die peacefully. This is so sad! It's a shame that these ultra right-wing groups have manipulated the parents and made this situation worse.

11:33:00 PM  

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