TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (BP)–The U.S. Supreme Court may have the final say as to whether Terri Schiavo, a disabled woman living in Florida, lives or dies.
Lawyers for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush filed an appeal with the high court Dec. 1, asking the justices to take the case and overturn a ruling by the Florida Supreme Court that could lead to her death.
Legal briefs were filed with the U.S. Supreme Court just two days before Schiavo’s 41st birthday (Dec. 3). Lawyers argue that if Schiavo dies, her constitutional right of equal treatment under the law will have been violated.
“It has taken our nation many years to make good on its commitment to equal justice for persons with profound cognitive disabilities,” the brief states, in part. “Unless the State of Florida retains the power to protect the rights of its most vulnerable citizens to due process and equal protection of the laws, the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantees will apply only to those who are capable of defending them on their own.”
The woman at the center of the legal debate, Schiavo has been in what some doctors consider a persistent vegetative state since 1990, when she collapsed in her home. Her husband and legal guardian, Michael Schiavo — who has fathered two children with his live-in girlfriend — has sought the removal of his wife’s feeding tube for nearly a decade, saying it is what she would have wanted. However, no written request from Terri Schiavo exists.
Terri Schiavo’s parents have long maintained that their daughter has not received the rehabilitation and care she requires.
Schiavo’s feeding tube was removed in October 2003, but the Florida legislature passed a law giving Bush the authority to order the re-insertion of the tube. He did so, and Michael Schiavo challenged the constitutionality of the law.
But in September of this year the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the law violated the Florida Constitution. Bush’s attorneys are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the law.
The U.S. Supreme Court does not have to take the case; it could decline to hear it and let the Florida high court’s ruling stand.
With reporting by Joni B. Hannigan