First lady Laura Bush (search) said Tuesday the government was right to have intervened in the case of Terri Schiavo (search), a severely brain-damaged Florida woman whose case has stirred national debate about life and death issues.
"I just feel like the federal government has to be involved," Mrs. Bush said. "It is a life issue that really does require government to be involved."
Mrs. Bush commented on the Schiavo case aboard a plane bound for Afghanistan (search), where she was to promote education and women's rights.
Schiavo's husband has been in a long court battle with his parents-in-law, contending his 41-year-old wife, who has been in a persistent vegetative state since 1990, would not want to live that way. Schiavo's parents, on the other hand, have been pleading with the U.S. Congress, Florida lawmakers, federal judges and in courts in Florida to have their daughter's feeding tube reinserted.
"I am not surprised over the debate," Mrs. Bush said. "I think it's an issue that, you know, everyone is concerned about and interested in.
"I'm sorry for the family that it has to be so public. This is such a very, very difficult time for them and for everyone who watches Terri."
Mrs. Bush said she has been encouraged to hear that the case has prompted more people to inquire about living wills.
"I think that is really good," she said. "The president and I have living wills and, of course, our parents do. They wanted us always to be aware of it. I think that it is important for families to have opportunities to talk about these issues."