PHILADELPHIA – The Florida judge who presided over the Terri Schiavo case and ruled her feeding tube should be removed told a bioethics symposium that lawmakers are ill-equipped to make right-to-die decisions.
Pinellas County Circuit Judge George W. Greer, in brief remarks at the University of Pennsylvania on Monday, said that 30 state and federal judges painstakingly reviewed the many volumes of testimony and evidence submitted in the divisive case.
But state lawmakers who passed "Terri's Law" to have the brain-damaged woman's feeding tube reinserted did so with "little to no debate" and with "significant arm-twisting," he said.
"Do you want that process ... or do you want a deliberative, court evidence-driven process where it can be reviewed?" Greer asked.
A spokesman for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said the legislation went through two days of debate — more than any other bill during that legislative session.
"The Florida Legislature is an independent body and Terri's Law went through a very deliberative process," Russell Schweiss said Tuesday.
Schiavo died March 31, 2005 — 13 days after the final removal of her feeding tube. Her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, fought her husband, Michael Schiavo, in court for seven years to keep the tube from being removed.
Greer first ruled in 2000 that Schiavo was in a persistent vegetative state and would not want to be kept alive artificially. In all, Greer ordered the removal of her feeding tube three times.
In 2003, Florida lawmakers passed "Terri's Law," which was ultimately rejected as unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. Days after Schiavo's tube was removed in March 2005, Congress approved a measure allowing it to be reconnected while a federal court reviewed the case. Despite the legislation, courts refused to intervene when asked by state lawmakers, Gov. Bush, Congress and President Bush.
Michael Schiavo, who on Sunday told the bioethics gathering that outsiders have no right to intervene in such medical decisions, was in the audience at Monday's panel discussion but did not speak.
A group of about 10 protesters in front of the symposium building carried signs featuring large photographs of Terri Schiavo and criticizing Greer's court order to remove her feeding tube.
Organizers of the conference said that several lawmakers, whom they did not identify, were invited to attend Monday's symposium but declined.