Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Florida Right-to-Life Law

By Jeff Johnson | July 7, 2008 | 8:22 PM EDT

(1st Add: Includes comments from Burke Balch, director of the Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics.)

( - While pro-life marchers gathered on the White House Ellipse to hear President Bush encourage their movement, the U.S. Supreme Court Monday refused to hear an appeal concerning the Florida right-to-life statute dubbed "Terri's Law."

The state of Florida had asked the Supreme Court to reinstate Terri's Law, legislation designed specifically to prevent Michael Schiavo from allowing his wife to die of starvation and dehydration.

Terri Schindler Schiavo suffers from brain damage. Her husband sought and received permission from a Florida judge to remove her feeding tube. Six days after Schiavo had the tube removed the most recent time, the law passed authorizing Florida Republican Gov. Jeb Bush to order it reinserted, which he did immediately.

The Supreme Court's refusal to hear the case Monday means the September 2004 decision by the Florida Supreme Court - which stated that a lower court was correct in finding the law unconstitutional - will stand. Terri Schindler Schiavo's father called that decision, "judicial homicide."

"They want to murder her," Robert Schindler said Monday.

Jay Sekulow - chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, which represented the Schindler family at the Supreme Court - echoed Schindler's assessment.

"With the Supreme Court refusing to take the case, there are now fewer options available to protecting the life of Terri Schiavo and that's a real tragedy," Sekulow said. "By declaring Terri's Law unconstitutional, the Florida courts have handed down a death sentence for her."

Michael Schiavo's attorney, "right-to-die" advocate George Felos, said he cannot predict how long pending legal motions might keep Terri alive.

"The only issue here," Felos told reporters, "is when the courts are going to summon up the resolve to say, 'No more. We're not going to put up with these frivolous motions and give stays and permit any other delays.'"

As Cybercast News Service previously reported, Michael Schiavo won a $1.2 million medical malpractice lawsuit based on the claim that his wife's brain injury was caused by a three-stage progression of a potassium imbalance that caused a heart attack, depriving her brain of oxygen. The Schindler family has long believed otherwise.

The family's case is supported by Dr. Michael Baden, a well-known New York forensic pathologist. Baden, author of three books on forensic pathology, has served as chief pathologist for the city of New York and as director of the forensic sciences unit of the New York State Police.

"It's extremely rare for a 20-year-old to have a cardiac arrest from low potassium who has no other diseases," Baden said during a 2003 television interview.

Baden has formulated his opinion of what caused Terri's brain injury, based, in large part, on a 1991 bone-scan report that only became available to the Schindler family in 1998.

"That bone scan describes her as having a head injury. That's why she's there. That's why she's getting a bone scan," Baden explained, "and a head injury can cause, lead to the 'vegetative state' that Mrs. Schiavo is [allegedly] in now."

The March 7, 1991, bone scan also listed apparent injuries to the ribs, thoracic vertebrae, both sacroiliac joints, both ankles and both knees.

"It does show evidence that there are other injuries, other bone fractures that are in a healing stage," Baden explained, adding that those apparent injuries were likely the result of "some kind of trauma.

"The trauma could be from an auto accident, the trauma could be from a fall or the trauma could be from some kind of beating that she obtained from somebody somewhere," Baden concluded.

Following the Supreme Court's decision, Monday, Robert Schindler said he does not know what he will do next to try to protect his daughter's life. "I have no idea what the next step will be," Schindler said. "We're going to fight for her as much as we can fight for her. She deserves a chance."

Sekulow said the Supreme Court's decision makes the few options that remain in the Florida courts less likely to prevail.

The case now goes back to the Florida courtroom of Pinellas County Circuit Judge George Greer, who has previously ruled three times that Schiavo could remove his wife's feeding tube. If Greer again rules in Schiavo's favor, Terri Schindler Schiavo would be expected to die of dehydration and starvation within 10 to 15 days after her feeding tube is removed.

"This horrific death sentence handed down by the Florida Supreme Court is allowed to stand because of the inaction of the U.S. Supreme Court," said Burke Balch, director of the Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics.

"In Florida, it's illegal to starve a dog and yet the courts of Florida would sentence Terri, an innocent woman with a disability, to such an inhumane death," Balch said.

"We must focus on passing legislation through the Florida legislature to protect Terri and those like her. Pro-life citizens everywhere and all citizens concerned with the rights of those with disabilities must continue to stand by Terri and her family with prayers and support," he added.

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