- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 31, 2004

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Supreme Court questioned lawyers yesterday about the extent of the power handed to Gov. Jeb Bush under a law that let him order the reinsertion of a brain-damaged woman’s feeding tube.

In a crucial hearing in the closely watched right-to-die fight, Justice Charles Wells said he was troubled because he had to conclude that the law was designed to sidestep a trial court ruling that found there was “clear and convincing evidence” that Terri Schiavo would not want to be hooked up to the tube.

But Bush attorney Ken Connor said the court’s order that the tube be removed was honored. The fact that the tube was reinserted six days later by order of the governor last fall doesn’t alter the removal order, Mr. Connor said.

“It wasn’t like an order that said so-and-so shall be hanged by the neck until dead,” Mr. Connor said.

The high court did not indicate when it would rule on the case.

A lawyer for Mrs. Schiavo’s husband and guardian, Michael, has challenged the constitutionality of the law, which the legislature passed in October and was in effect for just 15 days.

A trial judge in May ruled that the law violated Mrs. Schiavo’s privacy rights and the separation of powers between all three branches of government. The governor appealed that ruling, and the case was bumped immediately to Florida’s high court.

George Felos, representing Mr. Schiavo, told the justices that the fundamental issue was: “Who is entitled here to make a decision on a matter so personal and private as whether one would want artificial life support?”

Mrs. Schiavo, 40, suffered brain damage in 1990 when her heart stopped beating, a condition brought on by an eating disorder. She left no written instructions in the event that she became incapacitated.

Mrs. Schiavo can breathe on her own, but relies on a feeding tube to live. Some medical experts have declared that she is in a persistent vegetative state with no hope of recovery.

Her husband has argued that she would not want to be kept alive in this way. But her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, have disputed that and argued that she could someday regain some of her faculties.

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