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Gov. Jeb Bush went on the offensive yesterday on behalf of a brain-damaged Florida woman, filing a flurry of legal motions to counter a lawsuit by her husband, who is seeking to remove the feeding tube that keeps her alive.
Gov. Jeb Bush
Michael Schiavo insists his wife, Terri, would rather die than be sustained “through artificial means,” but Bush wants a jury trial to resolve that question.
Schiavo is challenging the constitutionality of “Terri’s law,” passed by the Florida Legislature last month to enable the governor to intervene and order her feeding tube reinserted after it had been removed by a judge’s order.
Bush is arguing Terri Schiavo’s rights under the Florida Constitution actually are protected under the law, not violated, as her husband contends.
The governor also sought to remove Florida Circuit Court Judge W. Douglas Baird from hearing the constitutionality of the new law, claiming he is biased.
Terri responding to her mother in video clip available on terrisfight.org
WorldNetDaily has reported the Schindlers have been locked in a 10-year battle to keep Michael Schiavo from removing Terri’s life-sustaining feeding tube. He succeeded last month when U.S. Circuit Court Judge George Greer ordered it removed. Terri survived six days without hydration and fluids before Florida lawmakers and Gov. Jeb Bush intervened and ordered the tube reinserted. Schiavo has appealed the intervention on the grounds that it unconstitutionally violates the separation-of-powers principle of government, as well as Terri’s right to privacy.
The governor’s filings likely will further delay the case, said Michael Schiavo’s attorney, George Felos, according to the Associated Press.
“The fact is this case is about whether this law is constitutional or not,” Felos said. “I don’t think the trial court is going to allow them to reopen six years of litigation.”
Michael Schiavo maintains his wife told him she would not want to be kept alive under such circumstances before she suffered severe brain damage after collapsing in 1990 under disputed circumstances. Terri’s parents, Robert and Mary Schindler suspect their daughter was physically abused.
The basis for the order to remove the feeding tube was the testimonies of doctors who say Terri is in a persistent vegetative state. But doctors employed by the Schindlers to assess her condition conclude that with therapy, she could learn to eat and drink on her own and perhaps learn to talk. Those assessments were not allowed in court, however.
Bob and Mary Schindler (courtesy Bay News 9)
In an interview earlier this week on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity
& Colmes” show, Schindler said doctors told him Terri has “acquired cerebral palsy.” Schindler blamed Terri’s condition on Michael Schiavo, who has denied her rehabilitative therapy since late 1992, according to medical records provided to the Schindlers’ attorney.
“Initially, Terri was talking. She was reacting and there were doctors way
back when that said she could recover. And he stopped everything,” Schindler
said. “She has literally been in prison for four years. She’s not permitted to go
outside. She has no stimulation. She has a wheelchair that’s broken that the
husband will not fix.”
An attorney representing Bush insists a jury must first establish what Terri’s wishes were before a court can rule whether those wishes were violated, the AP said.
Ken Connor, of Tampa, contends Bush’s actions were not unconstitutional because Terri Schiavo’s case is very different from the right-to-die case Michael Schiavo is using as a precedent.
In contrast to Terri’s case, Estelle Browning had two written wills establishing she did not want to be kept alive artificially, and no family members disputed that.
Terri’s law provides extra protection, he said, for disabled people who have nothing in writing and whose family members are divided on treatment.
Conner asserted Bush “is entitled to the same due process rights as any other citizen.”
The attorney dismisses the separation of powers argument, contending Florida courts have ruled lawmakers can act to affect prior court decisions.
Judge Baird should be removed, he says because of statements indicating his agreement with Michael Schiavo’s argument without having heard Bush present his case.
Felos maintains the comments were not improper, because state law puts the burden of proof on the government to prove its case. He also takes issue with Bush’s contention Terri’s law protects citizens.
“Who is it that the Legislature is trying to protect Terri Schiavo from?” Felos said, according to the AP. “The courts? It’s the court that has ordered her artificial life support removed.”