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Jeb: Jury Should Decide On Schiavo

Gov. Jeb Bush filed a flurry of legal briefs Wednesday in the case of a severely brain-damaged woman, arguing a jury trial is needed to decide whether Terri Schiavo wanted to be kept alive artificially.

The governor also sought to remove a judge from hearing a challenge to the constitutionality of a state law enacted hastily last month that allowed Bush to order Schiavo be put back on a feeding tube.

Bush further argued that Schiavo's privacy rights under the Florida Constitution are being given greater protection under the new law. Schiavo's husband in challenging the law contended that her privacy rights were being violated.

Terri Schiavo went for six days without food and water after Michael Schiavo won the right to remove the tube that has kept her alive for more than a decade. He contends his wife, before she suffered brain damage, told him she would never want such intervention.

Doctors have said Terry Schiavo is in a persistent and irreversible vegetative state, and has been since 1990, when it is believed she suffered from a potassium imbalance. But her parents, who are fighting to keep her alive, say they believe she can be rehabilitated.

Bush's court filings come in response to Michael Schiavo's lawsuit seeking a temporary stay of Bush's order to reinsert the feeding tube.

Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, said he was still reading through the thick set of legal papers, but said the governor was merely trying to cause delays.

"The fact is this case is about whether this law is constitutional or not," Felos said. "I don't think the trial court is going to allow them to reopen six years of litigation."

Attorney Ken Connor, representing the governor, said that before a court can decide whether Terri Schiavo's wishes weren't heeded, a jury must first establish what her wishes were.

Connor said the governor should be allowed to step in when the incapacitated subject has not left written instructions as to what should happen to her and when a family bickers about what to do.

"Michael Schiavo is going to have to establish (at trial) that he has standing to represent his wife's interests," Connor said. "He's going to have to establish that her right to privacy is infringed, that the governor is interfering with her health care choice.

The woman left no written directives concerning medical treatment. A judge's decision to grant Michael Schiavo permission to withdraw the feeding tube was based on testimony from him, his brother and a sister-in-law.

Her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, say they do not believe their daughter ever said she would not want to be kept alive artificially.

Connor said the new law provides an extra layer of protection for disabled people, providing an independent guardian to investigate cases when there is nothing in writing and when family members disagree on treatment.

Michael Schiavo is his wife's legal guardian, and his in-laws also are legally challenging that status.

In the filing seeking to remove Circuit Court judge W. Douglas Baird from the case, Connor cited statements the judge recently made saying that Terri Schiavo's rights were being violated.

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