JEFFERSON CITY - Shortly after the death of Terri Schiavo, a Missouri lawmaker put the issue before Missouri's General Assembly Thursday to protect Missourians in similar situations.
The measure, introducd by Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O'Fallon would prohibt doctors from removing feeding tubes from a patient in the absence of a living will asking for it.
This is regardless of what the patient may have verbally asked for, as Schiavo's husband, Michael, said she had wanted. The bill says that without the patient's written consent, no person legally authorized to make health care decisions may authorize the removal of feeding tubes.
"Unless you have your will in writing, we assume food and water are in the same category as being life sustaining," Davis said. "So the witholding of food and water was intended to create her death."
The bill also states that withdrawing nutrition or hydration from a patient with the intent of causing death is illegal. If death or serious injury results from the removal of feeding tubes, the person responsible for doing so will be guilty of a class D felony.
"We do not create acts of barbarism in this state and under the approval of government," Davis said.
Rep. Wayne Cooper, R-Camdenton concurred with Davis' view that the intention of the bill is preserving the gift of life.
"I do not want to see our society begin to view human life on the basis of this quality rather than its existence," Cooper said in reference to what Schiavo's condition was.
It was not stated in the bill how keeping patients alive with feeding tubes would be funded. Schiavo's medical costs for the past couple of years were paid for by Florida's Medicaid program.
Other lawmakers view the bill as government's intrusion into the rights of families. Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia said that if someone in a vegetative state did not have a living will, the fate of the patient should be decided by the patient's family, not the government.
"Now what they want to do is stick the government right into the middle of family decisions, and frankly they don't belong there," Graham said.