Terri Schiavo's right-to-live case went to the Florida Supreme Court Tuesday, Aug 31, 2004. The hearing drew a packed courtroom, including Terri’s parents, Robert and Mary Schindler.
The Florida Supreme Court has not given any hints as to when it will render its decision. If the Florida Supreme Court decides to overturn Terri's Law and authorize Terri's estranged husband Michael to end her life, attorneys for Governor Jeb Bush are considering taking the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Terri Schiavo, the woman at the center of the debate, suffered severe brain damage in 1990 after her heart stopped beating for several minutes. Oxygen was cut off to her brain, leaving her in what doctors call a “persistent vegetative state”. Her husband contends his wife never wanted to be kept alive artificially, but her parents express objection saying Schiavo did not leave any written instructions for such wishes.
Terri Schiavo’s case began to attract public attention when Michael, who is engaged to and living with another woman, requested permission to end her life via euthanasia by removing her feeding tube six years ago.
Feeding and hydration tubes were removed from Schiavo last October for a second time since her collapse. On Oct. 21, 2003 Florida Governor Jeb Bush and the Legislature rushed a special law allowing the tubes to be reconnected.
A lower court ruled that "Terri's Law" violates Florida's right-of-privacy. Other critics say the statute also violates the separation of powers. Meanwhile, Michael continues to appeal Governor Bush’s decision saying that he is fulfilling his wife’s wishes.
The case was finally referred to Florida Supreme Court on August 31, 2004.
Robert Destro, Bush attorney, was challenged by Justices about whether or not Bush had the power to order the reinsertion of feeding tubes.
Destro responded that under specific circumstances as explained in chapter 765 of Florida law, governor Bush acts on behalf of a patient who left no living will, been in a persistent vegetative state and have had a family member challenge the removal of life sustaining instruments. In addition, Destro also reminded the justices that historically the governor is the ultimate defender of peoples’ civil rights in the state of Florida.
Meanwhile, George Felos, in his arguments to the court in behalf of Michael Schiavo, restated previous court rulings favoring the removal of life supporting system on Terri Schiavo. Felos also indicated the “Terri Law” is forcing a re-adjudication of the patients’ rights.
A court spokesperson said a ruling might come as early as the end of September. Ken Conner, Bush's lead attorney and former president of the Family Research Council, says the Florida governor would go as high as the U.S. Supreme Court due to the nature of the issues involved.
"If the Florida Supreme Court construes it in such a way as to deprive the governor of his constitutionally protected rights of federal due process, then I expect the governor will consider seeking relief from the United States Supreme Court," Conner told Knight Ridder newspapers.
Pat Anderson, a St. Petersburg attorney representing Terri’s parents in supporting “Terri Law” indicated that the case is important because of the precedent it sets for active euthanasia.
“Whether the Supreme Court upholds Terri’s Law or strikes it down is not going to decide … whether Terri lives or dies,” Anderson said. “There is no question that this case is important because it’s the next logical step in the euthanasia movement that is so powerful in America today.”
Emphasizing that Terri is responsive to medical treatments and there are good chances for her recovery if Terri is provided rehabilitation, Anderson said “Where do we draw the line? Terri has shown us by her indomitable will to live for the last 14 and a half years, surviving crisis after crisis, that she wants to live.”
Terri’s father, Bob Schindler, commented, “Terri is responsive. She reacts to her mother and her siblings, to her brother and sister and to myself. And she’s a live human being. She has emotions and she expresses her emotions.”