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Law to keep brain-damaged woman alive nixed

A Florida  judge ruled Thursday that the  law pushed by  Gov. Jeb Bush to keep a severely brain-damaged woman alive is unconstitutional.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The law pushed by Gov. Jeb Bush to keep a severely brain-damaged woman alive is unconstitutional, a judge ruled Thursday. The governor’s office filed an immediate appeal.

The ruling by Pinellas Circuit Court Judge W. Douglas Baird voided the law passed in October, just days after Terri Schiavo was disconnected from the feeding and hydration tube which has kept her alive for more than a decade.

The law allowed Bush to order Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube reconnected. The governor’s filing with the state 2nd District Court of Appeal will keep the tube in place.

In his ruling, Baird said the so-called “Terri’s Law” is unconstitutional because it violates Terri Schiavo’s right to privacy and because it delegated legislative power to the governor.

Schiavo’s husband, Michael, has fought a long court battle to carry out what he said were his wife’s wishes not to be kept alive artificially. But her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, doubt she had such wishes and believe her condition could improve with therapy.

The appeals court that received Bush’s filling had previously upheld Michael Schiavo’s legal quest to disconnect the tube.

Terri Schiavo, now 40, was left severely brain damaged in February 1990 after her heart stopped beating because of chemical imbalance brought on by an eating disorder. She left no written directive about her wishes if she were ever incapacitated.

Bush’s spokesman, Jacob DiPietre, said the governor’s attorneys appealed Thursday’s ruling so they can “continue to defend the constitutionality of this law.”

Pat Anderson, an attorney for the Schindlers, said they were disappointed but not surprised by Baird’s ruling. Their supporters had held 24-hour vigils, and prominent anti-abortion activists had gathered to stage protests.

Michael Schiavo’s attorney planned to comment on the ruling later in the day.

Several right-to-die cases across the nation have been fought in the courts in recent years, but few, if any, have been this drawn-out and bitter. The tangled case encompassed at least 20 judges in at least six different courts and drew international attention.

Both sides accused each other of being motivated by greed over a $1 million medical malpractice award from doctors who failed to diagnose the chemical imbalance.