17 National Disability Groups File Briefs in Case to Back Florida Law Protecting Terri Schiavo

PALM BEACH, July 16, 2004 ( - On Monday July 12, disability advocates filed a friend of the court brief in a case that affects the rights of people with cognitive disabilities across Florida and, potentially, nationwide. The Disability Brief urges the state Supreme Court to reverse the lower court and uphold Terri Schiavo’s right to food, water and rehabilitation.

The groups are among the nation’s leading civil rights organizations representing people with disabilities. They joined to support ‘Terri’s Law’ noting that “the standards upon which Ms. Schiavo’s life or death turn may, if defined broadly enough, (can) also be applied to thousands of people with disabilities who, like Ms. Schiavo, cannot readily articulate their own views and must rely on third parties as substitute decision-makers.”

The groups explained that “The need for limits on the powers of such decision makers is nowhere more clear that on a question as fundamental as life or death, because the consequences of abuse or misjudgment are both ultimate and irreversible. For this reason, neither a court nor any third party may base a decision on their own view of the affected person’s ‘quality of life.’ Only the person’s own desires may drive this determination.”

Max Lapertosa, attorney for the disability groups said, “A judge’s order to terminate the life of a woman with severe disabilities is not a private family matter. Terminating Ms. Schiavo’s life support would not be possible without the authority of the courts. This case reflects whether our society and legal system value the lives of people with disabilities equally to those without disabilities.”  jhw

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