News Articles

Terri Schiavo can be saved by prompt passage of legislation, senator says

WASHINGTON (BP)–Supporters of a federal legislative remedy that could save Terri Schiavo’s life continued to push for quick action in Congress March 10.

At a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sen. Sam Brownback, R.-Kan., said a new bill to aid the disabled Florida woman is on an expedited route and has the potential for immediate Senate passage. Senators are being asked if they object to the bill, the Incapacitated Persons Legal Protection Act, with the hope that a unanimous consent agreement might be reached on the bill, he said.

Schiavo’s feeding tube is scheduled to be removed March 18 after which she would die within days of dehydration and starvation.

“If there is no objection to it, it could pass even yet today,” Brownback said. “That may or may not happen.”

The House of Representatives has a similar consent mechanism, Brownback said, but it is uncertain how quickly it will act on the measure.

The legislation would give Schiavo and other incapacitated people the legal protections often associated with death row inmates. The measure is based on the “writ of habeas corpus,” which provides the effected person the opportunity for a court review to determine if his/her due process rights have been protected.

The bill is S. 539 in the Senate and H.R. 1151 in the House. Sen. Mel Martinez, R.-Fla., and Rep. Dave Weldon, R.-Fla., are the lead sponsors.

“Anybody concerned about establishing or pushing for a culture of life,” Brownback said, “has to be concerned about what this case says about America today, about what it says about our court system, about what it says about the protection of the most vulnerable and the weakest in this society. And I hope and pray we can get this law passed in a timely fashion to be able to keep hope alive.”

State legislators in Florida also are considering a bill that could aid Schiavo. That bill would prevent similar people in Schiavo’s condition from having their feeding tube removed, unless they had stated it beforehand in writing.

Schiavo, 41, is the woman at the center of a “right-to-die” case that has captured national interest. In 1990, she suffered brain damage after her heart stopped. Since then, some doctors have said she is in a persistent vegetative state, but her parents and supporters contend she is in a minimally conscious state. She could improve were she provided rehabilitation services, her supporters say, but her legal husband, Michael, has refused to do so in recent years.

For years Bob and Mary Schindler, Terri Schiavo’s parents, have been in a court battle with Michael Schiavo over whether she should live. Although Michael Schiavo says his wife would want to die, no written request from Terri exists. Meanwhile, he has lived in recent years with his girlfriend, with whom he has fathered two children.
U.S. senators and representatives can be reached via the Internet at www.senate.gov or www.house.gov, respectively, or by telephone through the Capitol Hill switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

    About the Author

  • Staff