ACLU of Florida Welcomes Judge Whittemore's Ruling in the Schiavo Case

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
March 22, 2005 12:00 am

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Statement of Howard L. Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida

MIAMI, FL — Today Judge Whittemore found that even with the special law passed by Congress there is no basis to set aside the legal procedures in Florida for how these difficult, but intensely personal decisions are to be made. Both Congress and the President needlessly prolonged this tragic saga.

Decisions about whether to continue or discontinue extraordinary or even life-sustaining measures are part of a basic privacy right, and should be left to each of us when competent to make those decisions, or through a surrogate if no longer competent, but certainly without the intrusion of politicians who may not approve of our decision.

The President, no doubt, will continue to talk about a “culture of life,” but what Judge Whittemore did in his decision was to defend the “culture of freedom” that each of us has to exercise control over our lives, and the circumstances of our own death.

There is a lesson for all of us in the tragic Schiavo case: if you want to exclude politicians from the end-of-life decisions you and your family must make regarding a terminally-ill loved one or, as in the case of Terri Schiavo, a family member who has suffered a catastrophic accident; if you don’t want to be used as a political cause celebre by political and religious organizations – express your end-of-life views to your family and loved ones and, better, put it in writing in the form of a living will or advance medical directive.

NOTE: The ACLU was co-counsel in the case before Judge Whittemore that resulted in today’s ruling. The ACLU was also part of the legal team challenging “Terri’s Law 1,” enacted in October of 2003 to give Gov. Jeb Bush authority to re-insert the feeding tube. The case was struck down as unconstitutional by every Florida court; the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal.

OFFSITE LINK: Get more information on the case and how-to make a living will

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