Fla. Supreme Court strikes down "Terri's Law"

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Oct. 11, 2004

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Declaring that it violated the constitutional separation of power between the three branches of government, the Florida Supreme Court voted unanimously to strike down a state law that gave Gov. Jeb Bush the authority to continue medical treatment for Terri Schiavo.

Schiavo, 40, has been in a "persistent vegetative state" since she collapsed 14 years ago when her heart temporarily stopped beating and halted the flow of oxygen to her brain.

Schiavo's husband, Michael, has said she would not have wanted to continue to live in this condition and has worked to have her feeding tube removed. Her parents, however, have insisted that she be kept alive in hope that her condition someday might improve. Courts allowed the tube to be removed in April 2001 and October 2003, only to have others order it reinserted.

After the tube was removed last year, the Legislature passed "Terri's Law," which Bush signed. He immediately ordered the tube to be reinserted six days after it had been removed.

"The continuing vitality of our system of separation of powers precludes the other two branches from nullifying the judicial branch's final orders," the court's opinion states.

"If the Legislature with the assent of the governor can do what was attempted here, the judicial branch would be subordinated to the final directive of other branches. ... No court judgment could ever be considered truly final, and no constitutional right truly secure, because the precedent of this case would hold to the contrary. Vested interests could be stripped away based on popular clamor."

Schiavo had left no documented instructions concerning her wishes for continued medical care, and her case is said to have spurred interest around the country in living wills and advance directives.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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