Thursday, March 24, 2005

Terri Schiavo Case: Legal Issues Involving
Healthcare Directives, Death, and Dying

  • U.S. Supreme Court Order denying the application of Schiavo’s parents for a stay of enforcement of the Florida judgment (March 24, 2005)
  • Michael Schiavo’s Opposition to application by Terri Schiavo’s parents (March 24, 2005)
  • 11th Circuit Opinion In 2-1 vote, a federal appeals court denies a legal request to reinsert a feeding tube into Terri Schiavo (March 23, 2005)
  • Court Order denying the request of Terri Schiavo’s parents to reinsert a feeding tube into their daughter (March 22, 2005)
  • Michael Schiavo’s Opposition (March 21, 2005)

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    Legislators With Medical Degrees Offer Opinions on Schiavo Case

    As a congressman and a doctor, Representative Dave Weldon, Republican of Florida, sought to put the imprimatur of medicine on Congress's decision to intervene in the case of Terri Schiavo. Like the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist of Tennessee, who is a heart-lung transplant surgeon, Dr. Weldon has been unafraid to question Ms. Schiavo's diagnosis from afar.

    Now he wants to review the case more closely.

    "Please consider affording me the opportunity to personally evaluate Terri's medical condition," Dr. Weldon, an internist who is licensed to practice in Florida, wrote in a letter sent Monday to the lawyer for Ms. Schiavo's husband, Michael.

    He added, "As a medical doctor, who on many occasions was involved in end-of-life decisions with my patients and their family members, I understand many of the issues involved."

    Dr. Weldon's request to examine Ms. Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman at the center of a national debate, is perhaps the most extreme example of how some doctors in Congress have exercised their medical judgment in the case. At least three remarked on her condition without examining her, basing their opinions on court affidavits, videotape or both. In addition to the comments by Dr. Frist and Dr. Weldon, Representative Phil Gingrey, a Georgia Republican and an obstetrician, contended in a House debate that Ms. Schiavo could improve "with proper treatment, now denied."

    The result has been fierce criticism of these Republican doctor-lawmakers by some medical ethicists who say they have blurred the line between medicine and politics, and by Democratic doctor-politicians who say their colleagues have gone too far. Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee and an internist, told reporters that Dr. Frist's remarks were not "medically sound." Another Democrat, Representative Jim McDermott, a psychiatrist from Washington, accused his colleagues on Tuesday of committing "legislative malpractice."

    "This poor woman and this poor family are being used as a political football, and these guys will do anything to push the point that they think is so important, that they will invade this family's privacy," he said in an interview. He singled out Dr. Weldon, saying, "This is a guy who's lost track of who he is."
    con·cept: Terri Schiavo Case: Legal Issues Involving Healthcare Directives, Death, and Dying