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Friday, September 24, 2004  

Law: Florida court upholds right to end life

The Supreme Court of Florida has struck a blow for separation of powers. The name Terry Schiavo probably rings a bell. She is the Florida woman who has been breathing, but not living, for fourteen years. Efforts to allow her to pass peacefully have been thwarted by the pro-life movement. It contends that any body, even those without brains or brain stems, should be kept 'alive' through mechanical means. The conflict around Schiavo became particularly unpleasant because the governor of the state intruded into it. He and pro-life legislators hurriedly passed a law that forced Schiavo to continue her ordeal. The legislation put all power in regard to the issue in the governor's hands.

CNN has the details.

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (AP) -- The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a law that was rushed through the Legislature last fall to keep a severely brain-damaged woman hooked up to a feeding tube against her husband's wishes.

The unanimous court said the law that kept Terri Schiavo alive violated the separation of powers between the judicial branch and the legislative and executive branches.

Lower courts had ruled that Michael Schiavo could have the tube removed, but the Legislature passed the law to overrule the courts. Gov. Jeb Bush then used the law to order the tube reinserted. The court's decision came just weeks after oral arguments.

. . ."It is without question an invasion of the authority of the judicial branch for the Legislature to pass a law that allows the executive branch to interfere with the final judicial determination in a case," Chief Justice Barbara Pariente wrote for the court. "That is precisely what occurred here."

The court said the law improperly delegated legislative powers to the governor, who had complete authority to issue or lift a stay.

The good news about this decision is:

•It affirms that the courts are the proper venue for weighing issues of equity effecting individuals.

•t confirms that the legislative process cannot be used to undermine judicial decisions.

•A state court rendered it, instead of relying on the federal judicial system to 'rescue' it from the excecutive and legislative branches' folly.

The bad news is that the state's Supreme Court had to step in at all. The lower court's decision was fairly rendered. It weighed the competing interests involved and decided that Schiavo, who will not recover from her persistent vegetative state, need not remain in limbo for years to come.

The interlopers seeking to advance their interests in the case -- the pro-life movement -- have no actual standing. Their lives will not be impacted if the woman is allowed to finish dying. Schiavo is merely a vehicle for them to use to further their cause. That, in part, is why I have no empathy for them. They took what should be a personal decision made by family -- whether to maintain a body after it can no longer function -- and converted it into a decision to made by strangers for political expediency. That is the antithesis of caring about other people, not evidence of a reverence for life. They must be very muddled thinkers to confuse imposing their will on others with protecting people from harm.

Reasonably related

So Gov. Bush behaved as if he is King Jeb. Why does it matter that a governor usurped the judicial prerogative? Michael C. Dorf offers additional insights at Findlaw.

8:10 PM