Gov. Bush Orders Disabled Fla. Woman's Feedings Resumed

By Jeff Johnson | July 7, 2008 | 8:04 PM EDT

( - Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush has ordered that Terri Schindler Schiavo's feeding tube be re-inserted. Bush issued an executive order late Tuesday after the Florida legislature gave him the authority to take the action.

"Like the tens of thousands of Floridians who have raised their voices in support of Terri Schiavo's right to live, I have been deeply moved by these tragic circumstances," Bush said of the 39-year-old woman who suffered a brain injury due to a disputed cause in 1990.

"[A]ny life-or-death decision should be made only after careful consideration of all related facts and conditions," Bush continued. "For that reason, I appreciate the extraordinary action of the legislature today and will use the discretion they have granted regarding the restoration of nutrition and water to Terri Schiavo."

Bush issued Executive Order 03-201, which states that:

    "Effective immediately, continued withholding of nutrition and hydration from Theresa Schiavo is hereby stayed.
    "Effective immediately, all medical facilities and personnel providing medical care for Theresa Schiavo, and all those acting in concert or participation with them, are hereby directed to immediately provide nutrition and hydration to Theresa Schiavo by means of a gastronomy tube or by any other method determined appropriate in the reasonable judgment of a licensed physician.
    "While this order is effective, no person shall interfere with the stay entered pursuant to this order. And,
    "This order shall be effective until such time as the governor revokes it."

The order also directed the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to serve the hospice where Terri was taken to end her life with a copy of the order.

Suzanne Carr, Terri's sister, said the intervention by the governor and the legislature was "a miracle, an absolute miracle."

Bush also addressed the conflict between Terri's husband and her biological relatives, which he said "has made us all acutely aware that uncertainty in these situations can, and does, compound the tragedy.

"I hope all Floridians, and any others who have followed this case, will ensure their best interests are clearly documented in a living will or other directive to spare their families a similar anguish," Bush added. "My thoughts and prayers remain with Terri and those who love her."

Political battle quickly overtook legal battle once feeding tube was removed

What had been mostly a legal and public relations battle to save Terri's life quickly became a political fight between those who support and those who oppose the so-called "right to die."

On Tuesday, the sixth day Terri had been deprived of food or water, the Florida Senate entered the fray, passing by a vote of 23 to 15 with one amendment, the bill approved by the House Monday night. The House passed the amended bill minutes later on a 73-to-24 vote.

The language of "Terri's Bill" gave Bush the authority to issue a "one-time stay" whenever a person has been declared to be in a "persistent vegetative state," has not left a written directive about "artificial" life support, his or her feeding tube has been removed and a member of the person's family disputes the decision.

Pro-life Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) issued a statement saying Gov. Bush and the Florida General Assembly "should be applauded.

"Are we to be a country that says the disabled are unworthy to live? Thankfully, Gov. Bush and members of the state House and Senate answered that question with an emphatic 'No,'" Pitts said. "People rely on their leaders to protect them, to stick up for those who can't defend themselves. This week, Florida's leaders honored that trust."

April Thompson, legislative assistant with the National Right to Life Committee, also praised the rapid action.

"Thanks to the urging of Gov. Bush and the quick action of the Florida legislature, Terri Schindler Schiavo may again receive nutrition and hydration," Thompson said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Terri and her family as they continue working to protect Terri's life."

Attorneys for Schiavo filed suit Tuesday afternoon attempting to block implementation of the law. The request was rejected by an appeals court judge on technical grounds.

Politics evident as Senate considered proposal

Florida Senate President Jim King (R) authored the state's so-called "death with dignity" law authorizing "living wills" in response to what he believed was unnecessary suffering by his mother and father, both of whom died from cancer. King initially opposed Terri's Bill, but after a "flood of e-mails" to his office, King called a news conference to announce that the state Senate would consider the proposal.

"It's been a tough, tough day," King told reporters. "I only hope to God that we've done the right thing."

The political undercurrent of the decision became apparent Monday, when King designated Republican State Senator Dan Webster as sponsor of the bill. Both Webster and Republican Florida House Speaker Johnnie Byrd, who sponsored the bill in the House, are seeking the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) at the end of his current term. Graham sought the Democrats' nomination for president before withdrawing from the race a number of weeks ago.

Florida state Sen. Michael Bennett (R) expressed his displeasure with the apparent political gamesmanship surrounding the legislation to the St. Petersburg Times.

"I'm just about tired of someone across the hallway [in the Florida House of Representatives] putting their own personal political agenda for their Senate race, or whatever race it is, ahead of the people of the state of Florida," Bennett said.

Husband and family get personal in press statements

As initial passage of the bill in the House became certain, Michael Schiavo issued a rare statement to the press defending his pursuit of his wife's death.

"Some people do not agree with the decision the court made to remove Terri's feeding tube. I struggle to accept it myself," said Schiavo, who has fought in court to end his wife's life since shortly after receiving a $1.2 million malpractice award for her care and rehabilitation in 1998.

"But I know in my heart that it is right, and it is what Terri wants," Schiavo claimed.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Schindler family issued an angry response, calling Schiavo's statement "an exercise in self-justification that completely rewrites the true history of his efforts to have our Terri put to death by starvation and dehydration.

"Mr. Schiavo's crocodile tears and his statement that 'I struggle with' the court's order to starve and dehydrate Terri defy belief," the Schindlers wrote. "That order is the end result of Mr. Schiavo's utter determination to see Terri dead so that he can marry his 'fiance.'"

Though Schiavo is still legally married to Terri, he has been living with another woman who has given birth to one child fathered by him and is pregnant with his second child. Schiavo has publicly referred to the woman as his "fiance."

"We cannot allow Mr. Schiavo's lies to go unanswered," Terri's family continued. "We pray that God will see to it that justice is done and that our Terri's life is delivered from the clutches of this ruthless man, who dares to pretend that he is grieving with us over what he has done to Terri."

To view's long-term coverage of the Terri Schindler Schiavo case, click here.

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