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Monday, June 20, 2005  

News: Times blasts Jeb Bush

I was relieved by the release of Terri Schiavo's autopsy Wednesday. I hoped confirmation that prolonging her life would have been futile would end the bitter reaction to her death of some Americans. Unfortunately, Right to Life organizations have simply chosen to deny reality. The most extreme of them claim there is a conspiracy to falsify the true state of Ms. Schiavo's health, and, are recycling claims that she responded to stimuli and tried to talk. The autopsy says otherwise. Her brain had atrophied and shrank, and, that she was blind. Other members of the Right to Life movement are somewhat less strident, but still wrong. They claim it doesn't matter that Ms. Schiavo was in a permanent vegetative state -- that her life should have been extended by life support regardlessly. But, the response of these people was not the most absurd. That dishonor was left to a politician, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. The governor, long at the forefront of those seeking political capital through the exploitation of the Schiavo situation, responded to the autopsy by mounting a new attack on Michael Schiavo.

The Miami Herald reports.

One day after an exhaustive autopsy sought to end much of the controversy over Terri Schiavo's life, and eventual death, Gov. Jeb Bush said he plans to ask prosecutors to investigate whether her husband took too long to call for help on the night she collapsed in 1990.

A lawyer for Michael Schiavo called the governor's comments ''disgusting'' and said there was no delay in the husband's call for help.

Bush said Thursday that he had talked to Dr. Jon Thogmartin, the Pinellas-Pasco medical examiner, a day before Thogmartin publicly released the results of his autopsy on Terri Schiavo, who died on March 31 after a protracted legal and political battle.

Bush said Thogmartin told him he had gained access to information suggesting that there was a 70-minute delay between when Michael Schiavo first heard a ''bump'' in the early morning hours of Feb. 25, 1990 and when he eventually called 911.

''I have not seen or heard of this information before that there's some doubt about when she did collapse and how long it took for a phone call to be made,'' Bush told reporters. ``That is I think, worthy of some investigation.''

George Felos, an attorney for Michael Schiavo, attacked Bush and said that while his client was not able to remember exact times of what happened that tragic morning, he immediately called for help after his wife collapsed.

''It's really unfortunate and disgusting that the governor who had meddled beyond his powers in this case is joining that same bandwagon,'' Felos said. ``The fact is, there was no gap.''

The effect of Gov. Bush's response was to urge people to ignore the findings of the autopsy and shift their attention to continued persecution of Schiavo by the Right to Life Movement. Michael Schiavo waged a seven-year battle to withdraw life support from his wife, more or less alone. There was no political movement he could call on to orchestrate a public relations campaign on his behalf and pay his lawyers' fees. However, this time around Schiavo is not standing alone. Media across the country, fed up with the poisonous atmosphere Schiavo has been forced to live in because of attacks by conservative politicians and the Right to Life Movement, are speaking up. Among them is the New York Times, which has published two editorials supporting Schiavo, so far. Jeb Bush responded to the first with an attack on the paper, as well as Schiavo.

But, the editorial writers at the Times were not scared away from the topic. The came back with a stronger piece Friday.

Politics and Terri Schiavo

After Terri Schiavo was finally allowed to rest in peace on March 31, we hoped she would also have been granted in death what she surely would have wanted - an end to the bitterness that divided her family and made her private suffering a public spectacle. For the American people, the episode was a terrible lesson in what government should and should not do, in what is properly within the scope of our political leaders and what is not.

And so it was heartbreaking yesterday to see Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida thrust himself back into this tragedy just two days after the results of Ms. Schiavo's autopsy showed that her condition had been beyond hope and beyond therapy, that she most likely had been in a persistent vegetative state and that her relatives' allegations that she had been abused by her husband were false.

For most of the nation, that news provided closure on a wrenching episode. But not for Mr. Bush, who asked a state prosecutor to investigate Michael Schiavo, Ms. Schiavo's husband. Mr. Bush said he wanted to clear up discrepancies in Mr. Schiavo's statements over the last 15 years about the time that elapsed between his finding his wife on the floor and his 911 call. If such discrepancies existed, Mr. Bush surely knew of them long before yesterday. To seek an investigation now seems tactical, an attempt to deflect attention from the autopsy report.

Of all the politicians who tragically failed to understand and respect the sanctity and privacy of family life in this case, only Mr. Bush seems determined to save face by disturbing the family's peace further and berating those who had been saying all along that he was going down a terrible road.

The attacks on Michael Schiavo probably are not over. As a public figure, he would face an incredible burden if he tried to respond through the legal system. Though most of what his detractors have said about him is false, the requirement of proving malicious intent is a difficult one. In addition, politicians who have attacked him might claim immunity from lawsuits. So, he is forced to be a vulnerable individual subjected to abuse by the powerful. It is heartening to see that Schiavo no longer stands alone.

7:30 PM