Federal lawmakers scramble to halt removal of Schiavo feeding tube

[JURIST] In eleventh-hour attempts to prevent the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube scheduled for 1 PM Friday, US congressional committees Friday morning called hearings and issued subpoenas that could procedurally delay the withdrawal. The Senate Health Committee chaired by Mike Enzi called Schiavo and her husband Michael to testify [Enzi press release] at a March 28 hearing on "Health Care Provided to Non-Ambulatory Persons" in a largely symbolic move designed to cast some measure of legal protection over her in the absence of any agreement [Reuters report] yesterday between the US Senate and House on an appropriate legislative solution. In a statement [text] on the hearing, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist noted:

Federal criminal law protects witnesses called before official Congressional committee proceedings from anyone who may obstruct or impede a witness’ attendance or testimony. More specifically, the law protects a witness from anyone who -- by threats, force, or by any threatening letter or communication --influences, obstructs, or impedes an inquiry or investigation by Congress. Anyone who violates this law is subject to criminal fines and imprisonment.
The Republican leadership of the US House Government Reform Committee [official website] had previously announced it was beginning an investigation [House leadership statement] into the case announced plans to subpoena Schiavo's doctors Friday, ordering them not to remove the feeding tube until its investigation is completed. Ranking Committee Democrat Henry Waxman called the subpoenas a "flagrant abuse of power" [PDF text]. The US Supreme Court has also refused to hear an appeal of the case from the Florida courts; a Florida judge earlier refused to authorize any further delays. A Florida House bill that might have held off the removal was left hanging when the Florida state Senate balked on a different measure and it became apparent that there was insufficient support to drive through a last-minute law.

On Capitol Hill Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and GOP House Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) have blamed Senate Democrats for rejecting the House bill [JURIST report] that would have stopped Schiavo's tube removal by allowing her case into the federal courts; House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner issued a similar statement [press release] accusing Senators Harry Reid (D-NV) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) of allowing Schiavo to starve to death by not supporting the House bill. However, several Republican Senators said the problem was not partisan, but rather that the House would not agree to the narrower scope of the proposed Senate legislation. Appearing to encourage some action, President Bush issued a special statement on Teri Schiavo late Thursday:
The case of Terri Schiavo raises complex issues. Yet in instances like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws, and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life. Those who live at the mercy of others deserve our special care and concern. It should be our goal as a nation to build a culture of life, where all Americans are valued, welcomed, and protected - and that culture of life must extend to individuals with disabilities.
AP has more.

12:10 PM ET - A hearing is scheduled at 12:30 PM Friday before Judge George Greer on whether the Congressional subpoenas should be recognized. Schiavo's parents have also sought a last-minute temporary injunction in federal court. If and when Terri Schiavo's feeding tube is removed it is expected that death would not until for a week or two. ABC-TV in Tampa has more.

 

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