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Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Thursday, March 17, 2005

Florida's Legislative Branch Moves Schiavo Bills Along

On March 16, the Florida Senate filed and referred to committee SB 2128, the "Starvation and Dehydration of Persons with Disabilities Prevention Act."  The bill would create a presumption that an incompetent person has instructed his or her care team to initiate and continue artificial nutrition and hydration, and it takes the power to refuse ANH away from an incompetent patient's surrogate decision maker.  The presumption would not apply when (i) it is not medically feasible to provide ANH, or doing so would hasten death, or (ii) there is an advance directive clearly stating that the person would not want ANH under present circumstances, or there is other clear and convincing evidence to that effect. 

Also making its way through the Senate: SB 804 (Judiciary Committee's Substitute 1), which today (March 17) was placed on the Senate's Special Order Calendar.  This bill would make it unlawful to remove ANH from a person in a persistent vegetative state if (i) the purpose is solely to end the person's life, (ii) there is a disagreement over the action between or among family members or even close friends of the person, and (iii) the person has not left an advance directive authorizing the suspension of ANH.

On the House side, there's HB 701 (Committee Substitute 2).  The action is fast and furious over there this morning, but there appears to have been a floor vote at 11:38 a.m. (EST) that passed by a vote of 82-32, which resulted in the adoption of an amendment (#608477).  Various other amendments were then withdrawn and the bill received a third reading at 11:44 a.m. 

Local experts seem to agree that the two houses probably cannot reconcile the different bills before the court order directing the removal of ANH from Terri Schiavo is implemented on Friday.

Meanwhile the U.S. House passed HR 1151 by a voice vote Wednesday night (ABC News).  If passed into law, this bill would give federal courts habeas jurisdiction over the case. [tm]

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