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With only a few hours remaining before she slips beyond the point where she can be saved, the Florida Senate has not decided whether it should join the state House of Representatives in giving Gov. Jeb Bush the power to order Terri Schindler-Schiavo’s feeding tube re-inserted.
“They’re just playing with her life,” Pamela Hennessey, spokesperson for Terri’s family, told WorldNetDaily. “They’re arguing over bill language and deliberately letting her die.”
“The governor won’t do anything – he says his hands are tied but he knows that’s not the case,” she exclaimed. “They’re just going to let her die so they can wash their hands and walk away.”
Last night, six days after Terri’s feeding tube was removed on court order – sentencing her to a slow and painful death – the House, influenced by a massive and sustained outpouring of support for the 39-year-old brain-disabled woman, passed legislation that gives Bush the authority to intervene.
On a 68-23 vote, the 120-member House passed H35-E, known as Terri’s Bill, at approximately 10:15 p.m. Eastern last night.
Introduced by John Stargel, a Republican representing Polk County east of Tampa, the bill “authorizes the Governor to issue a one-time stay to prevent withholding of nutrition and hydration under certain circumstances; provides for expiration of stay; authorizes governor to lift stay under certain circumstances; provides that person is not civilly liable and is not subject to regulatory or disciplinary sanctions for taking action in compliance with any such stay.”
The Senate Rules & Calendar Committee approved the bill on a 10-2 vote.
Florida lawmakers, in the capital for a special session on economic development, have been flooded with calls and e-mails urging them to intervene on Terri’s behalf.
According to the Associated Press, Byrd called the special House session yesterday, as the governor asked to have the Schiavo issue added to the agenda.
“President King, Speaker Byrd and others in the legislature recognize the unique and tragic circumstances of Ms. Schiavo’s case, and I am hopeful the legislature will pass a bill immediately,” said Bush in a press release yesterday.
If the Senate passes the measure, Bush said he would sign it immediately. The governor will then have 15 days to issue a one-time stay.
Fla. Senate President Jim King
Terri’s supporters fear the outcome of today’s Senate debate because of known opposition of
Senate President Jim King, a Republican representing the northeast Florida coast area and Jacksonville.
King has expressed reservations over intervening in a case already vetted in the courts.
But citing “unique and unusual circumstances,” he has signed off on what he considers a narrowly drafted measure that still delivers what Byrd and Bush want, reports the Tribune.
“If we are going to err, then let us err on the side of caution,” the paper quotes King as saying. “I just hope to God we’ve done the right thing.”
Still, a full Senate vote won’t come until tonight.
The House action occurred just hours after the Tallahasse-based Advocacy Center for Persons with Disabilities filed for an injunction to keep Schiavo alive to have time to investigate whether removal of her life-sustaining feeding tube was an act of abuse by her husband, Michael Schiavo, according to an Associated Press report.
Schiavo – who lives with another woman with whom he has a child and another on the way – cut off all access to Terri’s therapy and claims he only is fulfilling wishes expressed before she suffered a sudden collapse in 1990 under mysterious circumstances.
The Schindlers, who maintain a website on their daughter’s case, say they have evidence Terri was physically attacked prior to her mysterious collapse.
Terri responding to her mother in video clip available on terrisfight.org
Gordon Scott, an attorney for the advocacy group, asked for a 10-day injunction to provide time for an investigation after he had conversations with the Schindlers and a neurologist. Scott said he is not convinced Terri is in a “persistent vegetative state” as claimed by Michael Schiavo and his advocates.
Pinellas County Circuit Judge George W. Greer agreed to that assessment, however, and ordered the feeding tube removed Oct. 15.
Scott also believes, contrary to Michael Schiavo’s claims, Terri is feeling pain from the starvation and dehydration.
The Schindler family said Terri appears to be in stable condition at the Pinellas Park, Fla., hospice where she has been a patient for over three years.
“She seems to be alert,” said her brother, Bob Schindler Jr., according to the Associated Press. “But every day that goes by, we’re getting into a crucial time for her. She’s got an incredible will to live.”
Christine Brundage, a retired registered nurse who handles the correspondence for the Schindler family, told WorldNetDaily in an e-mail last night Terri is still alert and awake, but very shrunken – the effects of six days of dehydration taking their toll.
Last week, two separate state courts rejected a motion to have the tube reinserted so law enforcement could investigate the case.
Meanwhile, the General Assembly of the Catholic Medical Association passed a resolution at its annual meeting Friday that summarizes the view of many advocates of the Schindler family.
It declared removal of Terri’s feeding tube “without first undertaking rehabilitation therapy to ascertain her ability to swallow and digest nourishment” constitutes “depriving her of life without due process of law,” according to Florida Statutes Section 744, 3211.
Volunteers with the Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation urge all concerned Floridians to contact their senators and encourage them to support “Terri’s Bill.”
Telephone numbers and e-mail addresses of legislators are listed on the Florida legislature’s website.
Updates and other information about Terri’s fight for life are posted on the family’s website.