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Akron Univ. School of Law

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Thursday, March 10, 2005

Schiavo Watch: Day 4,317

Legal developments in the Terri Schiavo case continue to percolate along.  Here are some of the most recent events (culled from an AP report today (courtesy of FindLaw) and the excellent timeline maintained by Steven Haidar and Kathy Cerminara):

  • On Thursday, the trial judge in the case (Greer, J.) denied the request of the Department of Children & Family Resources on Wednesday to intervene in the case, as well as the Department's request to stay the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube for up to 60 days while the department investigates allegations of abuse and neglect. (AP, courtesy of CNN.)  Without further stays, the feeding tube that has kept Terri Schiavo alive will be removed on March 18.
  • On Wednesday, a new bill (H. 701) cleared the House Health Care Regulation Commitee by a 7-4 vote and continued to make its way to a full House vote.  The bill would require doctors to provide nutrition and hydration to any incompetent patient who does not have an advance directive.   The text of Committee Substitute No. 1 (which is the version that was passed by the Committee yesterday) is here.  A companion bill, S.B. 2128, has been filed in the Senate but all the action so far is in the Florida House.
  • Today Fla. 2005 H. 701 was added to the Judiciary Committee's agenda.  It also has to go through the Florida Health & Families Council before it gets to a floor vote in the House.  Bill updates are here.
  • March 8, U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon, M.D. (R.-Fla.) introduced H.R. 1151, entitled "The Incapactitated Persons' Legal Protection Act," which would allow a federal court to entertain a habeas petition to review the Schiavo controversy.  His remarks in the Congressional Record are at pp. H993-H994.  (His previous floor remarks, on March 3, are at p. H972 of the Congressional Record.) The GPO print of the bill is still not available, nor has it been posted to Weldon's web page, although there is a news release about the bill.
  • March 7: bioethicists (most of them leaders in the Florida Bioethics Network), filed an invited analysis of H.701 in which they unanimously concluded that the Florida bill

    • Would impose impossible burdens on physicians and patient surrogates, proxies and guardians.

    • Would establish insurmountable barriers to Floridians’ exercise of uncontroversial rights to refuse burdensome medical treatment.

    • Misjudges the medical nature of artificial nutrition and hydration and the ethical issues involved in withholding and withdrawing such interventions.
    • Misunderstands the nature and importance of disability in end-of-life care.
  • Nova law prof Kathy Cerminara's legal analysis of the bill is here.  Prof. Cerminara is  a signatory to the bioethicists' report, and her legal analysis is to the same effect as their report: "H701 is an attempt to deprive a segment of Florida’s citizens of their constitutional rights to bodily integrity and self-determination merely because they have not memorialized their wishes in writing."

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