6.20.2015

Remember Terri Shiavo? By: Jeb Bush, Former Florida Governor

Jeb Bush speaking at the 2015 CPAC in Maryland in February 2015.
(Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Jeb Bush is a Republican presidential candidate and former Governor of Florida (1999-2007).

Many of you may remember that as Governor of Florida I used my authority to interfere in the life of Terri Shiavo, a woman in a persistent vegetative state whose husband wanted to remove her feeding tube over the objections of her parents. Since religious issues are a huge Republican exception to small government I used my position to insert myself into the judicial process against Terri's husband and the right to die, and as an ally of her parents and the right to life. In doing so I expressed my belief in government authority over individual liberty, and used my own religious beliefs to interfere in the private affairs of others. When the state courts said I had overreached my authority I asked Congress and my brother President George W. Bush for help to delay an inevitable court ruling allowing Terri's husband to kill her.

Terri Shiavo had irreversible brain damage and there was no chance she would ever recover. Michael Shiavo, her husband, had been going through the courts in Florida for years to get permission to remove her feeding tube as Terri's guardian. Mr. Shiavo argued Terri would never want to be kept alive in her current state and in 2003 was given permission to remove his wife's feeding tube.

This is where I used my authority as governor to get the legislature in Florida to pass "Terri's Law," which gave me the authority to interfere in the very private right-to-die affair. As a small government Republican, I issued an executive order to take Terri Shiavo from hospice and had police escort her ambulance to a nearby hospital where her feeding tube was restored.  It was what her Catholic parents who had been fighting Mr. Shiavo in the courts wanted, and I took their side since I am also a Catholic who disagreed with the courts.

Theresa "Terri" Schiavo, with her mother, Mary Schindler, August 11, 2001.

Upon my request, my brother President George W. Bush and Congress - including former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum (R) - all helped me to deny Terri Shiavo the right to die and prolonged her life for about two more years.  The Florida Supreme Court struck down "Terri's Law" as unconstitutional in 2004, and in early 2005 Terri's parents unsuccessfully appealed to the United States Supreme Court after getting nowhere with lower federal courts to keep their daughter alive. By March 2005 all of the government delays had finally been exhausted so Terri Shiavo's feeding tube was removed and she died on March 31st of that year.

After Terri was murdered by her husband an autopsy confirmed she had catastrophic brain damage and her doctors were correct in stating she would never recover. Instead of dropping the issue I wrote to a state prosecutor and asked him to investigate Michael Shiavo in relation to what happened to Terri to cause her to collapse and have such serious brain damage in 1990. I thought the time between when Terri collapsed and Michael's call to 911 was suspiciously long, but the prosecutor found nothing.

As a proud conservative, it is a great personal regret I was not able to keep Terri Shiavo in a persistent vegetative state for decades. I fought the good fight and used every dirty trick in the book to try to win, but came up short. There should be no mistake this is the man I am and the type of president I will be.

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