WASHINGTON – State lawmakers outside of Florida have been watching the case of Terry Schiavo (search) unfold day after day, and, in many cases, they say it will likely spur increased focus on similar life-or-death decisions.
But whether states will be inspired to pass new laws to avoid the seemingly unending court drama surrounding the Schiavo case is another matter entirely.
"I think we need to look at what we already have on the books," said Democratic state Sen. Donnie Trotter of Illinois, a long-time advocate for public health issues. "The (Schiavo) case itself, I truly believed, should have been determined by the courts."
New York State Sen. Michael Balboni, a Republican, said many of his colleagues had a negative reaction to the U.S. Congress passing a bill that allowed the federal courts to step in on the Schiavo case this week.
The House passed another bill Wednesday night that would have made the federal court an option for any case like Schiavo's. It is not clear when or if the Senate will take up a similar legislation.
The congressional intervention had little effect, however, as the federal court declined to overturn the Florida court's decision to replace Schiavo's feeding tube, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined Thursday to hear the case.
"We have drawn back in horror at the political miscalculation of this case by the Congress," Balboni charged.
Meanwhile, the Florida state Legislature failed to pass a bill Wednesday that would have reversed the courts' decision by not allowing patients in Schiavo's declared "persistent state of vegetation" to be deprived of food and water without an advanced, written directive from the patient saying that it was his or her wishes.
Much of the contention in the Schiavo case comes from the fact that Schiavo did not leave a written directive, and while her husband, Michael, said she told him she would not want to be kept alive in such circumstances, her parents have fought to keep her alive for the last 15 years through court battles. In the state of Florida, Michael Schiavo (search) is the legal guardian of his wife.
Balboni said the only thing the state of New York is prepared to do is make it easier for residents to make out living wills and health proxies in order to make their own health decisions.
"There has been no discussion about further legislation because we think … bad cases make bad law and that's kind of what's happening here," he said.
But Alabama state Republican Rep. Dick Brewbaker disagreed; he has introduced legislation similar to the bill that failed in Florida and he hopes it will have enough support to pass. His measure says it should be assumed that a patient without a living will would want to be kept alive.
"I am hopeful that this will encourage people to think a little more about this sort of thing," Brewbaker told FOXNews.com, "so that it won't affect Alabama. There seems to be more of a respect for life here."
Brewbaker, however, said he does not see this as state government intervention.
"I know people will make that argument," he noted. Rather, "it's encouraging families to make their own decisions … we just say you cannot make any decision for someone else without their written consent."
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (search) had failed at an attempt to have Schiavo removed from her husband's guardianship and placed in the care of the state in order to keep her alive. Gov. Bush's legal adviser, Kevin O'Connor, told FOX News that he would be in favor of a new state law that would allow such interventions in spousal guardianships, if the husband or wife was involved in another relationship at the time of the spouse's incapacitation.
Michael Schiavo currently has a common-law wife, with whom he has two children.
"In the event the guardian is cohabitating with another other than their spouse or has children with someone other than their spouse … then I think the law should remove that guardian and put someone else in the position," O'Connor said.
Since January, nearly 20 states have introduced or passed bills strengthening and defining terms of consent and guardianship when it comes to life-prolonging medical procedures and decisions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Most of these bills — like those in New Hampshire, Nevada, Hawaii and Kentucky — focus on living wills, health proxies and written declarations, the role of the state when there is no established guardian for an incapacitated person, and generally making it easier for people to make out advanced directives for their future care. Aside from legislation, people in many states, such as Wisconsin, have been searching the Web and government offices for information on how to create their own living wills.
U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Ala., said this is a fair role for the state legislatures to play, but neither the federal nor state governments should start creating new laws — including the Brewbaker proposal — that would insert the government into cases similar to Schiavo's. "We can't be making special laws for one special case."
Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said lawmakers need to step back from the situation before taking any extraordinary steps, if any.
"Government can't do everything and this is a classic example."