TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to hear an appeal in one of the nation's longest and most bitter right-to-die cases.
The court voted 4-3 to hear the dispute over "Terri's Law," which forced doctors to reinsert the feeding tube that has kept Terri Schiavo (search) alive for more than 14 years. The decision expedites the case, bypassing a review by a lower court.
Gov. Jeb Bush (search) signed the law in October, days after Schiavo's husband had the tube removed. The law was ruled unconstitutional in May, but the tube will remain in place while Bush appeals.
"They [the court] recognize this is a case that affects the lives of many Floridians," said George Felos, attorney for Michael Schiavo (search). "It needs immediate resolution."
Schiavo has fought a long court battle to remove the feeding tube and carry out what he said were his wife's wishes not to be kept alive artificially. The dispute has pitted him against his in-laws, Bob and Mary Schindler, who say the condition of their 40-year-old daughter could improve.
Bush has defended the law, saying it protects disabled adults, especially in a case where the patient's family is at odds over her wishes. Terri Schiavo's parents say she recognizes them and they contend she would want to be kept alive.
"We look forward to making our case to the Supreme Court about why the Legislature and the governor should partner with the courts in protecting our most vulnerable citizens," said Jacob DiPietre, a spokesman for Bush.
Michael Schiavo says the law violates his wife's right to privacy and the separation of powers between branches of government.
The state Supreme Court scheduled oral arguments on the case for Aug. 31.
Wednesday's decision came hours after the Schindlers charged that Michael Schiavo has failed to provide his wife with proper care. The couple's attorneys sought a ruling on whether he is entitled to act on his wife's behalf. Circuit Court Judge George Greer did not immediately rule.