New stay issued blocking challenge in right-to-die case

Sunday, November 16, 2003

LAKELAND, Fla. -- An appeals court has stepped in to at least temporarily block a man's challenge to a law that restored his brain-damaged wife's feeding tube in a contentious right-to-die case.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush had faced a Monday deadline to justify the constitutionality of the law, which was passed specifically to allow the governor to intervene in the case of Terri Schiavo. The 2nd District Court of Appeal issued an indefinite stay late Friday, hours after a lower judge lifted another stay.

Michael Schiavo now must explain to the state appeals court by Tuesday why his challenge should be on a fast track.

Schiavo had his wife's feeding tube removed last month after years of legal battles with her parents, but the governor ordered the tube reinserted six days later under a quickly passed state law.

Schiavo sued Bush, and an appeal by the governor triggered an automatic stay. Circuit Judge W. Douglas Baird lifted the stay Friday, saying any delays in removing the feeding tube violate Terri Schiavo's constitutional right to privacy.

"The deprivation of this right is immediate, ongoing and presumptively unconstitutional," Baird said from the bench.

Attorneys for the governor immediately appealed, and the new stay was issued.

"I'm not dragging my feet," Bush said after filing the appeal. "I think it's appropriate in something that is a matter of life and death that the procedures that we believe are the appropriate ones should take place."

Calls for comment to Michael Schiavo's attorney Saturday were not returned.

Pat Anderson, attorney for Terri Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, said her "life continues to be threatened by those forces who want to see her die from starvation and dehydration. We are once again grateful that the governor is doing everything in his power to protect Terri's life."

Michael Schiavo says his wife would not want to be kept alive artificially. She suffered severe brain damage in 1990 when her heart temporarily stopped, cutting off oxygen to her brain.

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