FOR THE RELIEF OF THE PARENTS OF THERESA MARIE SCHIAVO -- (House of Representatives - March 20, 2005)
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Mr. KINGSTON. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time.
Mr. Speaker, I am a cosponsors of the Weldon legislation. I respect his opinion as a Floridian and as a doctor, but I am also a cosponsor of the Sensenbrenner legislation, as I respect his lead and opinion as a jurist, a lawyer, and as someone who knows the 14th amendment. And I do believe there is a question about the 14th amendment, due process, being followed or not.
Here is what we do know. Terri is not a PVS, someone in a permanent vegetative state. Florida has a legal definition of this and it states that one has to be permanent or irreversibly unconscious, with no voluntary or cognitive behavior of any kind, and without ability to communicate. Terri is able to laugh, she is able to cry, and she, apparently, can hear. She responds to stimuli, such as voices, touch, and people.
Six neurologists and eight medical professionals have testified that she is not PVS, even though her husband has discontinued valuable therapy now for nearly 10 years. Terri is not terminally ill. She is not in the process of dying. She is not on a respirator, she is not on dialysis, she is not on a pacemaker or any other 24-hour medical equipment. She is not in a coma. And although parts of her brain are permanently damaged, she is not brain dead.
Removing the feeding tube simply kills her by starvation and dehydration. Terri did not have a living will. Even though her husband has now stated that she would have wanted to die, he withheld this information for 9 years and never came forth with it until the State law in Florida said they would now allow hearsay evidence for living wills. But up until then, there was nothing from her husband.
After the heart attack and chemical reaction in 1990, she was taking therapy. And, in fact, she was able to speak and communicate to some degree until 1993, when he discontinued the therapy. Mr. Speaker, if there is a split decision, we should go with the 14th amendment and the desire of the parents.
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