Husband of brain-damaged woman to fight feeding order

THE husband of a brain-damaged American woman at the centre of a bitter right-to-life battle plans to argue in court next week that Governor Jeb Bush’s order that led to her feeding tube being reinserted is unconstitutional.

Michael Schiavo, husband of Terri Schiavo, will return to court on Monday to challenge the governor’s actions, his attorney George Felos said.

Mr Felos said his client has been bolstered by the outpouring of public support on his behalf.

“He’s a fighter, and he’s feeling in some ways encouraged,” Mr Felos said.

Terri Schiavo has been in what doctors call a “persistent vegetative state” since 1990, when her heart stopped because of a chemical imbalance. Her eyes are open, but doctors say she has no consciousness.

Mr Schiavo contends that his wife told him she would rather die than be kept alive artificially, but family members dispute that. They believe she still could recover and have fought Mr Schiavo in court for a decade.

The tube was removed by a court order on October 15, but the US Legislature this week rushed through a bill designed to keep Ms Schiavo alive.

Jeb Bush quickly invoked the law and ordered the feeding tube reinserted.

Mr Felos said he plans to argue the new law violates an individual’s right to refuse medical care.

He also intends to argue that it violates the separation of powers by allowing the Legislature and the governor to overrule a court. Legal scholars say the Legislature cannot pass laws that apply retroactively and narrowly to specific individuals.

Mr Felosc said the doctor who has cared for Ms Schiavo since 1998 has resigned. Dr Victor Gambone had testified that the removal of the tube would allow her to die peacefully within days.

“The events of the last two weeks weighed on him very heavily,” Mr Felos said.

Morton Plant Hospital, where Ms Schiavo was taken last Tuesday for the tube to be reinserted, had brought in another specialist to take over for Dr Gambone, Mr Felos said.

Meanwhile, Ms Schiavo’s parents and brother visited her for more than an hour on Thursday in the hospice where she was transferred after the tube was reinserted.

“Terry is great, absolutely great. She has her colour back. She’s tired, but she just looks wonderful,” said her father, Bob Schindler.

The night before, Ms Schiavo appeared drawn and her eyes were rimmed with red, Mr Schindler said.

The law approved this week requires that a guardian be appointed to represent Ms Schiavo’s interests in court. Both sides were given five days to agree on a guardian. If they can’t agree, the judge will appoint one.

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