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On the eve of the removal of Terri Schiavo’s life-sustaining feeding tube, while Florida legislators and members of the U.S. Congress scrambled to pass measures to intervene, President Bush weighed in on the matter.
In a statement posted to the White House website yesterday Bush sided with the parents of the severely brain-damaged Florida woman who have waged an exhaustive court battle to block the efforts of her husband, Michael Schiavo, who seeks her death.
“The case of Terri Schiavo raises complex issues,” Bush stated. “Yet in instances like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws, and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life. Those who live at the mercy of others deserve our special care and concern. It should be our goal as a nation to build a culture of life, where all Americans are valued, welcomed, and protected – and that culture of life must extend to individuals with disabilities.”
The “serious questions and substantial doubts” Bush refers to are the fact that Terri has no written directive as to whether she would wish to have her feeding tube removed.
Michael Schiavo won a court order in 2000 to have it removed, claiming she was in a “persistent vegetative state” and had declared orally she wouldn’t want to live in such a condition.
The Schindlers, however, insist their daughter, while severely handicapped, is responsive and demonstrates a strong will to live. They have sworn affidavits from nearly a dozen medical experts disputing the three court-appointed physicians’ conclusions Terri remains in a “persistent vegetative state.”
Terri Schiavo is not hooked up to any machines, but she requires the small feeding tube for nourishment and hydration.
The 42-year-old collapsed under disputed circumstances Feb. 25, 1990, suffering severe brain damage when her heart stopped momentarily. Michael Schiavo attributes the collapse to an eating disorder, but the Schindlers strongly suspect he tried to strangle her.
The Schindlers have pleaded with Michael Schiavo to divorce their daughter, pointing out he has been living with another woman for 10 years, with whom he has two children.
The elder Bush’s statement echoed comments made by his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
“It breaks my heart we’re in a situation where it’s possible this woman could starve to death,” the governor said yesterday.
In 2003, “Terri’s Law” enabled Gov. Bush to intervene the second time Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube was removed. The law later was ruled unconstitutional, however, by the Florida Supreme Court, which said it violated the legal separation between the three branches of government.
Court documents and other information are posted on the Schindler family website.
Links to all “Terri briefs” regarding the governor’s defense of Terri’s Law are on the Florida Supreme Court website, public information.