Terri Shiavo's Right to Life Case Returns to Supreme Court

The critical right-to-life case of Terri Shiavo, a disabled woman who has been in a “persistent vegetative state” for fifteen years, will be presented to the U.S. Supreme Court in what may be the last chance for her to remain alive.

Terri’s story began when she collapsed at her home in 1990. Since then, she has been in what some doctors consider a “persistent vegetative state,” and have been connected to a feeding tube to maintain her life. Only five years after her condition, Michael Shiavo, Terri’s husband and legal guardian, began seeking ways to remove her tube, claiming she did not want to be kept alive artificially. According to reports, Michael, who fathered two children with his live-in girlfriend, never mentioned his wife’s wishes until after the couple was awarded more than $1 million in medical malpractice claims.

Michael Schiavo succeeded in removing her tube in October 2003, but the Florida legislature passed a law giving Governor Jeb Bush the authority to re-insert the tube. Michael challenged the law and the Florida Supreme Court ruled “Terri’s Law” unconstitutional in September 2004.

Terri’s parents then filed an appeal, explaining that even if her daughter had requested to die, as a Roman Catholic she would’ve changed her mind. The appeals court however let stand the Florida Supreme Court decision on December 29.

Most recently, Terri’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, were dealt a loss when the U.S. Supreme Court Feb. 4 refused to reinstated Terri’s law.

The ruling leaves the Schindlers without many options in Florida, but offers a way for their attorney to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court under the disabled person’s religious liberty rights clause.

The Schindlers’ lawyers plan to argue that even if their daughter had said before that she would not want to be kept a live artificially, she would’ve changed her mind as a Roman Catholic after hearing Pope John Paul II say that removing a feeding tube from a patient such as herself would be “euthanasia by omission”.

According to the Florida Baptist Witness, an attorney with the Gibbs Law Firm which represents the Schindlers, said Terri’s parents are doing “amazingly well” in light of the district court’s ruling. The attorneys plan to press for Terri’s religious and due process rights in filing the lawsuit.

"We have been all along planning to do that," Barbara Weller, to the Witness. "We're just very disappointed that [the court] chose not to deal with such an important issue of the free exercise of religion, which is one of the most important foundations of our American government.”

Weller also said Michael Schiavo’s attorney, George Felos, is incorrect in statements he made to the press that healthcare workers will be able to begin starving her in February 22.

"We still have other avenues of appeal," Weller said, explaining that since several courts are involved, her firm cannot request a stay in anticipation of another stay's expiration.