Wow — I just found the text of the Terri Schiavo bills being considered by the House and Senate, and honestly can’t believe what I’m reading. To quote from the Senate Bill, S. 686 (emphasis mine):

Any parent of Theresa Marie Schiavo shall have standing to bring a suit under this Act…. In such a suit, the District Court shall determine de novo any claim of a violation of any right of Theresa Marie Schiavo within the scope of this Act, notwithstanding any prior State court determination and regardless of whether such a claim has previously been raised, considered, or decided in State court proceedings. The District Court shall entertain and determine the suit without any delay or abstention in favor of State court proceedings, and regardless of whether remedies available in the State courts have been exhausted.

So, to paraphrase, the Senate is demanding the following:

  1. that Schiavo’s parents can start another lawsuit;
  2. that the Federal District Court will then have to start anew in considering the new suit, without reliance on any prior state court hearings;
  3. and that the Federal District Court cannot decline or defer to the prior decisions of state courts.

Now, to quote from the House bill, H.R. 1332 (emphasis again mine):

In hearing and determining a claim or cause of action removed under this section, the court shall only consider whether authorizing or directing the withholding or withdrawal of food or fluids or medical treatment necessary to sustain the incapacitated person’s life constitutes a deprivation of any right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. The United States district court shall determine de novo any claim or cause of action considered under subsection (c), and no bar or limitation based on abstention, res judicata, collateral estoppel, procedural default, or any other doctrine of issue or claim preclusion shall apply.

To paraphrase the House:

  1. the Federal courts must consider whether withholding life support deprives Schiavo of some right;
  2. the Federal courts must not consider whether continuing life support deprives her of her right to determine her own fate;
  3. the Federal courts again cannot rely on prior state hearings or decisions.

This is so much worse than I originally thought. Is there any doubt that this is a horrible violation of both separation of powers and states’ rights?