TAMPA, Fla. – Attorneys for Gov. Jeb Bush (search) defended a law at the center of one of the nation's longest right-to-die cases, telling the Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday that the statute protects disabled adults.
In filings to prepare the court for Aug. 31 arguments, Bush's attorneys said that the governor and the Legislature have powers equal to the judicial branch in protecting the disabled.
At issue is the constitutionality of the hastily enacted statute that stopped Michael Schiavo (search) from ending his brain-damaged wife's life in October after he was granted permission to withdraw her feeding tube.
Bush and Florida lawmakers approved the law six days after the tube had been removed, forcing doctors to reinsert the tube that had kept Terri Schiavo (search) alive for more than 14 years.
Michael Schiavo has challenged the law, saying it violates the separation of powers between the executive and judicial branches and violates his wife's right to make private medical decisions.
Terri Schiavo left no written instructions. The governor's attorneys have sought a jury trial to determine her wishes.
Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, predicted that the court would reject the governor's argument.
In a 62-page filing, the governor's attorneys highlighted nine issues they say are unresolved. Among those questions are why Michael Schiavo never mentioned his wife's end-of-life wishes during a medical malpractice trial in which the couple collected more than $700,000 to pay for Terri Schiavo's nursing-home care.
Ken Connor, one of the governor's attorneys, said Michael Schiavo "does not have the credibility to persuade a jury these were Terri's desires."
The law was declared unconstitutional in May by a Pinellas County judge. Florida's high court accepted the case, bypassing a lower-court review.
Terri Schiavo suffered heart failure brought on by an eating disorder in 1990. Medical experts have said she is in a persistent vegetative state with no hope for recovery.
Her parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, dispute that diagnosis, saying they believe their daughter recognizes them, smiles and laughs.
Bush has defended the law, saying it protects disabled adults, especially in cases where the patient's family is at odds over that person's wishes.