Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and that state's legislature have unconscionably meddled in the case of a severely brain-damaged woman, in a hopeless vegetative state for 13 years, whose husband had finally won the right for her to die peacefully.
The decision to remove life support is a difficult one, but there are medical and legal reviews to ensure the decision is a proper one. The case of Terri Schiavo, 39, had passed all those reviews, including judicial scrutiny that reached the Florida Supreme Court twice and the U.S. Supreme Court once. Considered medical opinion ruled out any hope of recovery.
Schiavo's husband, Michael, who was opposed by his wife's family, abided by the rules that govern these decisions and won at each step. He has insisted all along that his wife had never wanted to be kept alive artificially. Last Wednesday he won final permission to have his wife's feeding tube removed. Death was to follow in a week to 10 days.
But Bush let ideology trump law and medicine and very likely Terri Schiavo's own wishes. On Tuesday, the Florida Legislature passed a law, tailored to fit this one case, allowing Bush to order Schiavo's feeding tube reinserted. Bush quickly signed the law and issued the order. So much for the opinions of Schiavo's doctors and court orders and, since a 1990 Supreme Court decision, a matter of settled law.
"This is a response to a tragic situation," said Bush after issuing the order. It is a bad response and a dreadful precedent. Are Florida's politicians now to be the final arbiters of life-and-death medical decisions?
Schiavo's fate will now return to where it has spent most of the last 13 years, the courts, in an attempt to reverse the governor's meddling. Thanks to him, this painful and protracted process will become even more painful and protracted.