Free Terri Schiavo

February 25, 2005

LET'S ASSUME everyone involved in the tragic saga of Terri Schiavo is acting in good faith; that - for all those fighting over whether to keep the 41-year-old Florida woman artificially alive on a feeding tube 15 years after a heart attack left her severely brain-damaged - the battle is about her and not about them.

That her husband and her parents aren't mostly driven by their own anger, pain and resentments. That the politicians and the ideological advocates aren't primarily concerned with their own ambitions and agendas. That the thousands of callers and e-mailers seeking to involve themselves in this decision aren't priding themselves on coming to the aid of someone so helpless.

But even if better angels have been in charge, the refusal to let Mrs. Schiavo's body take its natural course - though her life has effectively long been over - now borders on the monstrous. The courts should quickly end this nightmare, and let Terri Schiavo go.

Her husband, Michael, who contends his wife would not have wanted to be kept alive in this fashion, is locked in a legal struggle with her parents that has been waged in every conceivable forum and is now starting the cycle all over again.

After Mr. Schiavo convinced Florida courts in 2003 to allow removal of his wife's feeding tube, Gov. Jeb Bush and the state Legislature intervened to overturn the decision. Their interference was slapped down as unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to get involved.

Now the matter is back before a Pinellas County Circuit Court judge, who this week agreed to briefly delay removal of the tube as Mrs. Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, press their appeals once again.

They say they need time to determine if their daughter has more mental capacity than exhibited so far and to have her husband removed as legal guardian.

Meanwhile, Governor Bush's administration is suddenly investigating whether Mr. Schiavo abused his wife, resurrecting charges previously determined to be unfounded in what is clearly another delaying tactic.

"I will do whatever I can within the means, within the laws, of our state to protect this woman's life," the governor told reporters.

That sounds noble. But if he and the Schindlers and their supporters are truly most concerned about Mrs. Schiavo, they should set her free.

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