Governor Orders Florida Woman Kept Alive


The law itself was signed today, but is backdated to take effect 15 October 2003:

The Governor shall have the authority to issue a one-time stay to prevent the withholding of nutrition and hydration from a patient if, as of October 15, 2003 …

However, Article I., Section 10 of the Florida Constitution states:

"SECTION 10. Prohibited laws.–No bill of attainder, ex post facto law or law impairing the obligation of contracts shall be passed. "

Notwithstanding the specific issue in which the law was hastily passed and signed into law, it looks like prima facie that it violates the Florida Constitution.

So why would a State be so blatant in passing a law that, as a non-lawyer, violates the state’s constitution? Has the high emotional aspects clouded the judgement of the Governor and the Legislature?

Even if the law passes muster in the Courts, this open a can or worms. So many doctors have determined the patient is in a permanent vegetative state. The cases has gone through numerous court decision supporting the legality of removing the feeding tube, and based on these medical opinions. Yet, politicians know better.

Does this mean when the Governor invokes his authority the State should now pay all medical expenses of the patient? After all, the State is assuming a level of legal responsibility to keep the person alive. Should this now be carried to its end with paying for it?

You have to understand that there is an element in our society who thinks they know best - no matter what. And some of them value human existance above all else. So, by their viewpoint, you (or any other person) should be kept alive at all costs, no matter how horrible/painful/whatever your existance, and no matter the price. Constitution forbids it? No matter, they are following a higher law that pre-empts the petty concerns of this world…

As for the state paying for it - well, no. You see, family is so very important, and the family should take responsibility. Nevermind if it bankrupts the family, they should be happy to be in debt-slavery because of the higher law. After all, they’d just waste all that money on unimportant things like food, clothing, housing, education… they’re so insignificant when compared to a human life.

[yes, I am laying it on rather thick…]

Actually, according to this CNN story the hospice is caring for the woman free of charge. It’s the last line in the article.

Not when it comes to the death penalty, Florida is the forth top state in number of executions.

To get votes, derr. :wink: The religious right is saying that, facts be damned, Terri Schiavo is alive and her feeding tube should be left in. They’re a key part of Bush’s support base, and he’s trying to make them happy.


Originally posted by Broomstick
You have to understand that there is an element in our society who thinks they know best - no matter what. And some of them value human existance above all else.

Swami said, “Not when it comes to the death penalty, Florida is the forth top state in number of executions.”

Ironical, ain’t it?:rolleyes:

In a column of Cecil’s about the constitutionality of the income tax, he mentions that the (U.S.) constitutional ban on ex post facto laws refers only to criminal matters.

Florida lawyer Dopers: is the same true of the provision in the Florida constitution that the OP mentioned? If so, presumably this law would be valid, since it doesn’t seem to be a criminal matter.

Remember how in biology class they’d euthanize a frog, cut off its legs and attack electrodes to it, to make the legs jump? This is just a way more elaborate version of that. No doubt they can keep her dead body twitching for another five or six years . . .

[Eve rushes off to make sure her will is in an easy-to-find place]

Eve - You live in New York, right? You might want to look into designating a Health Care Proxy. The following information is from the New York Attorney General’s website on health care issues.

I think most other states have the same or similar programs.

Eve, she may be undergoing major organ failure and could die very soon anyway. Not that that excuses any of what’s gone on here…

[don Devil’s Advocate Hat, step up on soapbox]

Are we sure we know this woman’s mental status? There does seem to be some debate on it, between those who presumably have her best interests at heart (her husband and her parents).

On the one hand, even a brain-dead person may move spontaneously (in truth, even a fresh corpse can twitch and move). Someone in a “persistent vegetative state” isn’t quite brain dead - they can and do shift position a little, some of them moan with painful stimuli, their eyes may be open, their mouths might move… So it could be her parents are fooled by vestigal reflexes and occassional muscle spasms into thinking that, not only are the lights still on, there’s still someone home… somewhere in there.

On the other hand, it may be that she does have some rudimentary “consciousness”. Is she aware? How aware? Is she capable of suffering? Clearly she’s severely disabled, but I have moral qualms about leaving someone to die essentially merely because they’re severely disabled.

One thing’s for sure - we won’t get the real truth from the media.

So ask yourself - where do you draw the line? What level of consciousness do you think is necessary to make life worthwhile?

If there’s no hope of my ever enjoying sex again, then just kill me.
::Hears rumbling sound of thunder in the distance.::

I’m serious. If I can’t enjoy sex, how the hell can I enjoy anything else? So if something ever happens to me that means I’m never going to get laid again, then just lop off my head, freeze it, and thaw it out whenever you figure out how to fix what’s wrong with me.

Well, she can hardly move. If those are truly emotional reactions, it seems that, being generous, they’re on the level of an infant. So… You have an infant that will waste hospital resources, put parents in denial, make everyone get weepy, bankrupt parents, start legal battles, for decades.

I think you know where I’m going with this one.

I agree. I read in today’s paper that she is probably so dehydrated that the IV fluids that they started pumping her up with will probably be too little too late. In the end, my self-righteous State Legislature’s self imposed expertise in medical ethics will backfire and make this poor woman’s death even more excruciating and expensive. Poetic justice, in a sick kind of way.

I doubt the time off fluids did any significant harm. She was in a very sound nutritional state to start with, it’s not like she was a cancer patient just hanging on. It’s her brain that’s packed it in and gone away; the rest of her organs (sadly, IMHO) work fine. I’d wager she’ll bounce back physically. But from the reputable evidence I’ve seen on the web, she doesn’t stand a chance of regaining cognitive function. And frankly, based on the same evidence, I really really really doubt there is any suffering going on at all. Her nervous system is no longer complex enough to experience that.

According to her doctors, she has no cerebral cortex. She is, essentially, a corpse that is being made to twitch and move and make noises. I feel sorry for her parents, but they have to realize she is already “dead.”

I didn’t realize that seven days without any hydration could not cause any significant damage to major organs such as the kidneys, liver, heart etc. I’m glad she won’t suffer, I’m sorry hospice will.

Personally I was surprised that a court could rule that starving someone to death was the same as removing life support. In my nursing days I looked after plenty of patients who were not on life support but would have starved if not fed by staff.

I had my son removed from life support due to brain damage and he died soon after. Had fate allowed him to live some time without a breathing apparatus I sure as hell would not have starved him to hasten his death.

Eve, I think the term you’re looking for is pithed. When they destroy the frog’s cerebral cortex, so it’s still breathing and its heart is still pumping, but it can’t feel anything, they usually call that pithing it. It used to be pretty common to use pithed frogs for reflex demonstrations and such, but I don’t think that’s done very much in biology classes anymore. Animal rights, budget cutbacks, time constraints, and all that kind of stuff, don’t you know.

To me, the feeding tube is the crux of the whole debate. Not whether she should have it or not, but whether someone who has one could possibly still be aware of their surroundings in any significant way. One has to assume that they’ve tried unsuccessfully to feed this woman before resorting to a feeding tube. If she isn’t aware enough to swallow mush when it’s put in her mouth, how on earth can anyone think she’s aware enough to laugh at what you just said?

Don’t ask, a feeding tube is, essentially, just another form of life support. It’s one more way of keeping the shell going when the brain can’t take care of it, just like a respirator. We’re not talking about withholding food from someone capable of eating if fed, or even someone capable of feeling hunger. We’re talking about the nutritional equivalent of not intubating someone, or turning off the respirator. It’s just that it takes nature a lot longer to take its course, and that’s more stressful and upsetting for the family. The patient, however, isn’t aware of suffering at all, which is the only reason the courts allow it.

Personally, I’d never pull my husband’s feeding tube, because he wouldn’t ever get one in the first place, and vice versa. Trust me, if either of us is too far gone to eat for two weeks, we’re too far gone to ever come back. I just can’t imagine the pure hell it must be to have him gone, but not be able to mourn him and heal from his death because his shell is still sitting there getting nutrients pumped into it. I wouldn’t put his family or myself through that, and I wouldn’t want him to put himself through that for my carcass.

If for some reason I were to have a feeding tube for a while to give me a chance, I wouldn’t want them to pull it and make my family watch my body starve to death. I’d rather they just give me 30 meq of intravenous KCl push and get it over with.

[put on Devil’s Advocate Hat again…] Christopher Reeve “can hardly move”, would you advocate starving him? From the standpoint of movement, she’s actually ahead of him since she’s breathing on her own, without a respirator. The big difference is that Mr. Reeve can actively communicate with others and she can’t.

I don’t think it’s the amount of movement that’s the issue, it’s the amount of thinking that is or isn’t going on in her head.

It’s considered very uncool to starve an infant to death, isn’t it? Or someone retarded?

Ah, but we’re talking about a human life, and for one side on this battle that justifies everything - every expense, resource, heartache…

If someone comes into a hospital severely burned do we just throw up our hands, say this person will cost millions of dollars, bankrupt his family with bills, tie up resources for years, and never be the same anyway - and turn the gurney over into the gutter? No?

What’s the difference? How do you define “human”. Is it the body or the brain? For some, it’s the body that counts - whether there are two functioning brain cells or not. For others, it’s the mind, and when that’s gone so are you.

Yes, but it’s not much of debate if everyone agrees, is it? Besides which, I doubt most of these sorts of cases are quite so cut and dried.

She is not, as has been pointed out, like a cancer patient on her last legs, she is not dependent on a respirator. She’s sort of at the level of a potted plant - water/feed, turn periodically. Properly cared for and, yes, fed she may live years longer. She is not in organ failure, she is not dying. Yes, her cerebral cortex is severely damaged - but there have been people who survived severe brain damage and still retained an ability to suffer or feel pleasure.

See, that’s what’s messing some folks up - she’s NOT “brain dead”. She’s brain-damaged, not brain-destroyed. I think her parents might be in denial of her chances of recovery, but I think they might also have some real concerns that she does have some minimal awareness of her state, of being able to suffer or not. In which case they might feel that they’re daughter isn’t dead, just severely retarded at this point, and that it’s no more moral to kill for that than to starve a baby with Down’s Syndrome to death. Particularly if this woman still makes an occassional spontaneous movement, it’s going to be really hard for parents to believe no one is in there.

[Devil’s Advocate Hat off]

I do think it’s hypocritical of the conservatives/Rabid Right to wail about government interference, then encourage a state governor to act against the ruling of the courts. Isn’t that government intrusion? Into the sacred family instution, yet!

How can she be responsive but in a vegetative state?