Sunday, February 15, 2015

Bush's baggage: Terri Schiavo edition

The ghost of Terri Schiavo is reaching out to remind people how then Governor Jeb Bush misused the powers of his office to intrude on her death, not once, but over and over again.

Bush first intervened in 2003 as the Schindlers' legal appeals were coming to an end. A judge's ruling that Michael Schiavo, Terri's legal guardian, could remove her feeding tube had withstood five years of court challenges. But the governor took the unusual step of writing the judge and asking him to assign a different guardian.
"I normally would not address a letter to the judge in a pending legal proceeding," Bush wrote. "However, my office has received over 27,000 emails reflecting understandable concern for the well-being of Terri Schiavo."
His request was rejected.
On Oct. 21, 2003, six days after the feeding tube was removed, the GOP-controlled Legislature passed a one-page bill granting the governor the power to order the tube reinserted. Bush signed it into law, and a police-escorted ambulance moved her from a hospice to a hospital, where the tube was put back in.
"I honestly believe we did the right thing," Bush wrote a constituent who supported the move.
Others weren't so sure, including some of the Republicans who shepherded the measure through the Legislature. "I keep thinking, 'What if Terri Schiavo really didn't want this at all?'" the late Jim King, then Florida's state Senate president, said at the time.
  Nearly a year later, the Florida Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional. Bush appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, was rejected and asked Congress to intervene. Lawmakers, including then-Sen. Clinton, voted to give Terri Schiavo's parents legal standing to appeal anew in the federal courts, which then rejected their case.
In a last-ditch effort, Bush tried to have the state Department of Children and Families take custody of Terri Schiavo, based on allegations that she had been abused by her husband and caregivers. The move was rebuffed by the presiding judge.
On March 31, 2005, Terri Schiavo died.
Even after that, Bush raised questions about Michael Schiavo's involvement in his wife's initial collapse and asked that a state prosecutor reopen the case, Michael Schiavo said in his letter to the newspaper.
The prosecutor concluded there was no evidence of wrongdoing.
Bush turned a family squabble, repeatedly resolved via settled law by courts at every level in favor of Michael's right to decide to withdraw the feeding tube, into a grotesque public circus. At some point or another just about every family will be confronted with a painful set of medical decisions, and it is likely that in a fair number of cases, there will be conflict within the family. The last thing that the dying, or the grieving, need is for their death beds to be turned into a political opportunity for the likes of Jeb Bush. Bottom line: do your dying far away from any Bush.

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