HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Friday, March 18, 2005

The Federalization of the Schiavo Case: All 3 Branches Weigh In

If the 1,627 hits for "Schiavo" on today's Google News site doesn't prove that this case has taken on a life of its own, how about the simultaneous involvement of all three branches of the federal goverment?

After the House passed its relatively broad bill to provide federal district courts (anywhere) with removal jurisdiction over any suit by or on behalf of incapacitated patients in which the withholding or withdrawal of artifical nutrition and hydration was at issue (see below), the Senate on Thursday passed S.653 by voice vote (the relevant pages of the Congressional Record are not yet available).  The text of the bill is here (PDF).  This much narrower bill gives one federal district court (for the Middle District of Florida) jurisdiction to hear a case brought by Terri Schiavo's parents (who are granted standing to sue) to challenge the lawfulness of a state court decision authorizing the removal of their daughters feeding tube.

Reuters reports that Republican leaders are talking about reconvening on Monday (despite the scheduled start of a two-week recess) to reconcile the two competing bills.  Three House leaders (Speaker Hastert, Majority Leader DeLay, and my college classmate and fraternity brother Tom Davis (chair of the Government Reform Committee)) announced plans to subpoena hospital administrators and attending physicians to explain themselves to Congress.  They also said a Senate investigation is planned.

Across the street, SCOTUS denied the parents' request for a stay (PDF) of the state court's order (allowing removal of Terri's feeding tube) pending their filing and the Court's disposition of a petition for certiorari.

And President Bush offered his own thoughts on the matter in this statement:

The case of Terri Schiavo raises complex issues. Yet in instances like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws, and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life. Those who live at the mercy of others deserve our special care and concern. It should be our goal as a nation to build a culture of life, where all Americans are valued, welcomed, and protected - and that culture of life must extend to individuals with disabilities.

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