updated 2/9/2004 5:02:26 PM ET 2004-02-09T22:02:26

The misguided effort by some in the Florida State Legislature to make it more difficult to remove a feeding tube from anyone who is critically ill or brain dead. 

There is a  bill that is apparently sailing through the House there would presume that any  “incompetent person” kept alive by feeding tubes would want to continue surviving that way.  The only way a tube could be removed is if the person either said so in a will or demonstrated by clear and convincing evidence that when competent he or she gave express and informed consent.  That means family members would never have a say in the matter.  Since no one under 18 is competent under the law, a parent could never remove feeding tubes from a child no matter how critically injured. 

Before today, I‘ve never demonstrated by clear and convincing evidence that I wouldn‘t want to be sustained with a feeding tube if I was brain dead.  Yet, anyone who knows me well would have known that‘s how I feel.  My family should be able to speak for me—not the legislature. In many cases the taxpayers would end up footing the bill for long-term care that no one involved wants. 

This bill was introduced in response to the Terri Schiavo case, the brain damaged woman whose husband has been battling with her family in his effort to remover her feeding tube.  He says Schiavo told him she would never have wanted to live that way.  Members of her immediate family don‘t buy it.   So far, the courts have sided with Michael Schiavo. 

It is essential to access what the person lying in that vegetative state would have wanted.  I don‘t presume to know what Terri wanted.  I do know that this legislation is a knee-jerk reaction to the case.  In general, the courts are well equipped to hear evidence and make judgments about what the patient would have wanted.  This is better than having the legislature determine what it thinks people (in general) should do when it comes to this sort of heart-wrenching decision.

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