TAMPA — In the last half hour, Monday's Republican debate turned to the Terri Schiavo case as a discussion of government's role in making a medical decision about the life and death of someone in a persistent vegetative state.
Schiavo's husband asked the Pinellas Circuit Court to remove her feeding tube in 1998, but her parents opposed him. A fierce, seven-year battle ensued. In 2005, a Pinellas judge ordered the tube removed; it was, after appeals were exhausted.
Schiavo died in March 2005.
"I called for a judicial hearing by an impartial judge at the federal level to review a case in which you had parents and a spouse on different sides of the issue," said Rick Santorum, a U.S. senator at the time. "And these were constituents of mine. The parents happen to live in Pennsylvania, and they came to me and made a very strong case that they would like to see some other pair of eyes, judicial eyes, look at it.
"And I agreed to advocate for those constituents because I believe that we should give respect and dignity for all human life, irrespective of their condition," Santorum said.
"Well, look," Newt Gingrich said. "I think that we go to extraordinary lengths, for example, for people who are on murderer's row. They have extraordinary rights of appeal. . . .
"It strikes me that having a bias in favor of life, and at least going to a federal hearing, which would be automatic if it was a criminal on death row, that it's not too much to say in some circumstances your rights as an American citizen ought to be respected," Gingrich said. "And there ought to be at least a judicial review of whether or not in that circumstance you should be allowed to die."
Ron Paul said he would have preferred to see the decision made at the state level.