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The Battle for Terri

Even after Terri's Law was passed, Michael Schiavo fought to secure his wife's death. Now that she's still alive, he won't allow her parents to visit her.

11:00 AM, Oct 22, 2003 • By WESLEY J. SMITH
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AT 8:30 P.M., JUDGE DOUGLAS BAIRD of the Florida Sixth Judicial Circuit began a hearing that would determine the immediate fate of Terri's Law. Meanwhile, it became clear why doctors had refused to reconnect Terri's feeding tube or even begin an IV line to provide her with desperately needed fluid: Deborah Bushnell, one of Michael's lawyers, had faxed a letter to virtually every doctor in Pinellas County in which she threatened to sue any physician who reconnected Terri's feeding tube or otherwise treated her. The chilling intent behind the letter worked. Even though Terri's Law protected doctors from liability, the hospital felt compelled to seek legal advise.

Finally, at about 9:00 P.M., there came news: The doctors had inserted an IV. Terri was again receiving fluids. Moreover, Judge Baird had refused to issue an injunction. At least for now, Terri's Law was protecting Terri Schiavo's life.

IS THE TUG OF WAR OVER? Far from it. There will probably be many more days like this one, days in which Terri's life will hang in the balance. Michael remains Terri's legal guardian and he still seeks her death. True to form, Michael immediately ordered the hospital to refuse visitation rights to her parents and siblings. Appeals against Terri's Law are certain, the results unknowable. The bioethics movement is sure to howl in rage and mobilize to undo what Florida has done. But as an emotionally exhausted, yet elated Patricia Anderson told me, "Every day that Terri Schiavo is alive is a good day." For those who believe in the sanctity and equality of human life, October 21, 2003, was a very good day indeed.

Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and an attorney for the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide. He is the author of "Forced Exit: The Slippery Slope from Assisted Suicide to Legalized Murder."