Euthanasia / Assisted Suicide - Archive

House Committee Holds Hearing on Terri Schiavo, Protecting Disabled People (2005)

The hearing surrounded the death of Schiavo, the disabled woman who was starved during a painful 13-day process.

The hearing was supposed to include Terri and her estranged husband Michael, but judges ignored Congressional subpoenas asking them to appear and allowed her death.

Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL) who is also a physician by profession, testified for the House Committee on Government Reform. He told them that feeding tubes should not be removed from incapacitated people whose medical costs are paid in part by the federal gov’t unless the patient has previously given explicit instructions to withdraw food/water.

Weldon is writing legislation to require Medicare & Medicaid to have a national standard that requires providing all patients with food and water unless patients gave alternate instructions.

“You’re going to see more and more people who are less and less disabled being denied care if we do not at least establish some kind of floor… or fundamental standard,” Weldon said.

Weldon said the federal government system should be “biased toward life” [Ft. Wayne Journal report]. Chair Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) agreed with Weldon and said the federal gov’t “should protect patients rather than pave the way to hasten their death.”

Souder said legislation is needed to presume a patient would want lifesaving medical treatment when no treatment decisions have been made in advance. Without such legislation, courts or doctors can decide patients should die, as happened with Schiavo.

Souder: “This creates a vacuum where someone else may determine that a patient’s life is one not worth living; and this is most definitely a slippery slope”. A Dept of Health & Human Services official who works with Medicare/Medicaid said the agency doesn’t make patient treatments decisions; patients, families & doctors do.

Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL) told members she was concerned that private insurance companies will not follow the same guidelines as the federal government, if Weldon’s proposal becomes law.

Bob Sedlmeyer, the father of a 19 year old Indiana woman whose birth defects left her incapacitated, told the committee that legislation like Weldon’s is necessary.

Sedlmeyer noted that, as support for euthanasia grows, “her right to die may become her duty to die.” He said it was frightening “that the value of [Terri’s] life, as measured by the scales of our justice system, did not merit even food and water.”

Last month, Weldon was a lead House sponsor of the bill asking courts to stop Terri’s starvation death and to allow her parents to take their lawsuit to federal courts.

Earlier this month, a Senate health committee held hearings on the plight of Terri Schiavo and end of life care. The meeting was marked by partisan division as lawmakers sparred over the best way to address patient treatment issues. [19Apr05, Ft. Wayne Journal; 20Apr05; 21Apr05]