FOR THE RELIEF OF THE PARENTS OF THERESA MARIE SCHIAVO -- (House of Representatives - March 20, 2005)
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Mr. PITTS. Mr. Speaker, in America we do not let people starve an animal to death. We do not let them starve prisoners to death. But that is what some would do to Terri Schiavo.
This is about the rights of a disabled person. Terri Schiavo is not brain dead or comatose or unconscious. She is not terminally ill, she is not dying, she is not on artificial life support. All she needs is a feeding tube to eat. But so do many disabled people.
Terri has a brain injury, but otherwise she is healthy. Seven years after the injury, her husband suddenly remembered Terri's wishes about life and death. Her estranged husband has not allowed her any therapy or treatments or rehabilitation in more than a decade since he won the malpractice award, even though many doctors believe that they would help her condition. In fact, she was speaking some words before her treatment stopped. She may not even need the help of a feeding tube if given therapy. Doctors who have seen her certify that she can swallow.
Mr. Speaker, this woman needs help, not a death sentence. She needs the warmth of a family that cares for her. She needs the help of doctors who want to treat her, instead of recommending that she die. But her family is not even allowed to help her because of a judge's ruling, a judge who in 5 years has not even bothered to visit her once to see for himself that Terri is not comatose, that she is not unconscious, that she is not in a vegetative state.
If prisoners on Death Row are guaranteed Federal review of their cases, Terri Schiavo deserves at least as much consideration. The 14th amendment of the Constitution says: "No State shall deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law." This means Florida may not starve Terri to death unless every legal recourse to prevent it has been taken.
This is a constitutional right. Terri's life is valuable. She deserves a right to live. The disability community is horrified at what is happening to Terri, and so are millions of Americans. I urge every one of my colleagues to have compassion on this disabled woman and allow a Federal court to review the facts and her constitutional rights.
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