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Special Coverage Of House Debate On Terri Schiavo

Aired March 20, 2005 - 21:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is a CNN special presentation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Terri's been fighting 15 years. She has an iron will to live. She hasn't given up on us and we're certainly not going to give up on her.


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, a family divided. And in the middle of it all, the U.S. Congress trying to reach an agreement.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The few remaining objecting House Democrats have so far cost Mrs. Schiavo two meals already today.


LIN: The question tonight, will the government be able to change the course of Terri Schiavo's life.

And you are looking at a live picture of Capital Hill where the House is in session at 9:00 on a Sunday night. And we're about to tell you why.

Good evening. From the CNN world headquarters, I'm Carol Lin.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: And from Washington, I'm Judy Woodruff.

And extraordinary few hours of CNN live coverage for you tonight due to some extraordinary developments here in the nation's capital.

A battle is raging that could determine the life or death of a long disabled Florida woman. The fight moved north to the halls of Congress just in the last few days, but the battle over Terri Schiavo really began over 15-years-ago.

LIN: That's right, Judy. February 1990 Terri Schiavo collapsed at her home and entered what doctors called a persistant vegetative state. And since then her parents and her husband have bitterly debated whether or not she would want to be kept alive in such a condition.

Well, cut to this weekend. President Bush returns early from Crawford, Texas in a case that has resulted now in a bipartisan bill is emerging from Capital Hill that will essentially save Terri Schiavo's life. The bill is in response to a Florida court directive the ordered Schiavo's life-giving feeding tube removed.

The Senate has already moved on the measure, passing unanimously. And it is now in the hands of the House. The bill would elevate the case to federal court and thereby require Terri Schiavo to be alive during the review. In short, her feeding tube would have to be reinstated.

WOODRUFF: And Carol, that's where things stand at this moment. Plenty of what if's and what if nots to talk about tonight. This very unusual night in Washington. And we have plenty of people to discuss them with. We have legal analysts and medical experts as well as CNN correspondents posted where it is all happening.

White House correspondent Dana Bash with me here in Washington. Bob Franken at the epicenter of the debate, Pinellas Park, Florida. And on Capital Hill where the lights are on this late Sunday night, CNN's Joe Johns.

Joe, this is unusual.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That is certainly true, Judy. The House of Representatives was supposed to be in recess this night. Of course, as you know, members of Congress all over the country, some outside the country. Less than 24-hours-ago, the world went out that, yes, you've got to get back here.

Judy, back to you.

WOODRUFF: Listen to the debate on the floor which has just gotten underway.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...that the Senate agreed to Senate concurrent resolution 23, signed sincerely Jeff Trandle (ph) Clerk of the House.

REP. DENNIS HASTERT, (R-IL) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: What purpose does the gentleman from Wisconsin rise?

REP. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, (R) WISCONSIN: Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill, Senate 686, a bill for the relief of the parents of Teresa Marie Schiavo.

HASTERT: The clerk will report the title of the bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senate 686, An Act for the Relief of the Parents of Teresa Marie Schiavo.

HASTERT: Persuant to the order of the House today, the gentleman from Wiscon, Mr. Sensenbrenner, and the gentleman from Florida, Mr. Wexler, each will control 90 minutes.

The chair recognizes the gentleman from Wisconsin. SENSENBRENNER: Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all members may have five legislative minutes (ph)within which to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous material on Senate 686, the bill currently under consideration.


SENSENBRENNER: Speaker, I owed myself such time as I may consume.

HASTERT: Gentleman is recognized.

SENSENBRENNER: Speaker, I rise in support of S-686, For the Relief of the Parents of Teresa Marie Schiavo. As the House convenes this Palm Sunday, the Florida courts are enforcing a merciless directive to deprive Terri Schiavo of her right to life.

Terri Schiavo, a person who's humanity is as undeniable as her emotional reponses to her family's tender caregiving has committed no crime and has done nothing wrong. Yet the Florida courts have brought Terri and the nation to an ugly crossroads by commanding medical professionals sworn to protect life to end Terri's life.

This Congress must reinforce the law's committment to justice and compassion for all American, particularly the most vulnerable.

On March 16, the House passed legislation to avert the tragedy now unfolding in Florida. The House bill HR-1332, The Protection of Incapacitated Persons Act of 2005, passed the House by a voice vote.

Earlier today I introduced HR-1452, For the Relief of the Parents of Teresa Marie Schiavo. The Senate passed legislation now before us as identical to that bill.

Mr. Speaker, while our federalist structure reserves broad authority to the states, America's federal courts have played a historical role in defending the constitutional rights of all Americans, including the disadvantaged, disabled and dispossessed. Among the God given rights protected by the constitution, no right is more sacred than the right to life.

The legislation we will consider today will ensure that Terri Schiavo's constitutional right to life will be given the federal court review that her situation demands.

Unlike legislation passed by the Senate a day after House passage of HR-1332, the legislation received from the Senate today is not a private bill. Also of critical importance, S-686 does not contain a provision that might have authorized the federal court to deny desperately needed nutritional support to Terri Schiavo during the pendency of her claim.

Unlike early Senate legislation, S-686 also contains a bicameral and bipartisan committment that Congress will examine the legal rights of incapacitated indivduals who are unable to make decisions concerning the provision or withdrawal of life sustaining treatment. Broad consideration of this issue is necessary to ensure that similarily situated individuals are recorded the equal protection under law that is both the fundamental constitutional right and an indespensible ingredient of justice.

It is important to note that this legislation does not create a new cause of action, rather it merely provides the noble federal court review -- excuse me -- of alleged violations of Terri Schiavo's rights under the constition or laws of the United States.

Furthermore, Senate 686 makes it clear that nothing in this act shall be construed to create substantive rights not otherwise secured by the constitution and laws of the United States or of several states.

In addition, the legislation does not reopen or direct the reopening of a final judgement, it merely ensures an opportunity for the review of any violation of Terri Schiavo's federal and constitutional rights in a federal court.

As a result, the legislation is clearly consistant with both the separation of powers envisioned by our founders and the weight of judicial precendent on point. As the Supreme Court held in Clout vs. Spend Thift Farms (ph), quote, "while legislators usually act through laws of general applicability, that is by no means their only legitimate mode of action." unquote.

Finally, S-686 presents no problems regarding retrospective applications. As the Supreme Court held in Land Graft vs. USI Film Products (ph) quote, "a statute does not operate retrospectively merely because it is implied in a case arising from conducted antidating the statutes inacurrate." unquote. Rather, the court must ask whether the new provision attaches new legal consequences to event completed before it's enacted.

S-686 does not attach any new legal consequences to events completed before its enactment, it merely changes the tribunal to hear the case by providing federal court jurisdiction to review alleged violations of Terri Schiavo's federal and constitutional rights.

Mr. Speaker, the measure of a nation's committment to the sanctity of life is reflected in its laws and to the extent that those laws honor and defend its most vulnerable citizens. When a person's intentions regarding whether to receive life-saving treatment are unclear, the responsibility of a compassionate nation is to affirm that person's right to life.

In our deeds and in our public actions, we must build a culture of life that welcomes and defends all human life. The compassionate traditions and highest values of our country command us to action.

We must work diligently to not only help Terri Schiavo continue her own fight for life, but to join the fight of all those who have lost the capacity to fight on their own. As millions of Americans observed the beginning of Holy Week this Palm Sunday, we are reminded that every life has purpose and none is without meaning. The battle to defend the preciousness of every life in a culture that respects and defends life is not only Terri's fight, but it is America's fight.

I commend the other body for passing this legislation without objection and urge colleagues across the isle to join us in this fight by passing S-686 to affirm the sanctity of life and to permit Terri to continue hers.

At this time, Mr. Speaker, I would like an unanimous consent to insert into the record subsequented -- supplemental legislative history on this bill and a letter addressed to me, dated today, from Professor Robert A. Desteau (ph) who is the attorney for Robert and Marry Schindler who is an ex-friend of their daughter Teresa Marie Schindler Schiavo and is a professor of law at the Columbus School of Law in the Catholic University of America. And I reserve the balance of my time.

HASTERT: No objection. So ordered.

What purpose of gentleman from Florida rise?

REP. ROBERT WEXLER, (D) FLORIDA: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to yield myself such time as I may consume.

HASTERT: No objection. Gentleman is recognized.

WEXLER: Thank you Mr. Speaker.

For those of us from Florida, the heart wrenching case involving Terri Schiavo is not new. In fact, for 15 years Mrs. Schiavo has remained in a persistant vegetative state. For 7 years, the courts in the state of Florida have heard ad nauseum arguments of sides.

There is this perception, possibly, that only 1 judge has been involved in this case. In fact, 19 judges in the state of Florida have participated in various legal proceedings regarding Terri Schiavo. The state of Florida, through out court system, has acted deliberatively, with justice, and with due care.

The state of Florida, through our judicial system, has taken testimony from everyone in the family, from everyone who knew Mrs. Schiavo that was capable of giving it. The courts in Florida have received expert testimony from many of the most prominent neurosurgeons and neurologists throughout the country.

The court system and the 19 judges in Florida have been unanimous, unanimous in stating that the evidence provided by a standard of clear and convincing evidence that it is Mrs. Schiavo's wish that she not be required to continue in a persistant vegetative state.

So I would respectfully suggest for those of us who take exception to the proposed action by the chairman of the judiciary committee and this Congress, that we stand in the shoes of Terri Schiavo. We stand in her shoes, because what we are simply arguing is that the will of Terri Schiavo, as found by the legal system of Florida, which is the law of the land as of now, that her will be respected, and that her will be carried out.

With all due respect to the proposed remedy, in effect, if this bill were to pass, what this Congress is designating is that the court system of Florida will lose its long history of jusdiction of this matter and others like it and the jusdiction of the federal court will be substituted.

The majority would argue that this is a priciple position, and while I wouldn't dare suggest otherwise, I would ask the question, if the Florida courts have found in Terri Schiavo's parents, would we be here this evening? I suspect not.

So it is fair to conclude, therefore, that the reason we are here this evening is that the majority is unhappy, objects to, the decision rightfully reached by the courts of the state of Florida. And as a result, the majority wishes to undermine over 200 years of jurisprudence, and a long history in this country the respect for our judicial independence as well as the state court systems and the jurisdictions assigned to it.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I would simply suggest this one thing. This is heart wrenching for all Americans. Each American I believe tonight and today has been searching his or her soul wondering how they would react if, God forbid, they were in this position. But the issue before this Congress is not an emotional one, it's simply one that respects the rule of law, the rule of law in the state of Florida, a rule of law which has involved the participation of 19 judges, all unanimous in their view.

Not a single medical piece of evidence has been provided by anybody who has diagnosed or in person witnesses Mrs. Schiavo that has said anything other than she persists in a vegetative state.

And yet this Congress seeks to replace and substitute our judgement, even though not a single one of us as far as I understand has ever diagnosed Mrs. Schiavo, nor do we have the medical expertise to do so. And yet we are willing tonight to replace our judgement with the judgement of the most prominent doctors in our country and a court system which has labored extensively to reach a just result.

Mr. Speaker, at this time, I will conclude my remarks. And yield back to Mr. Sensenbrenner.

HASTERT: The gentleman reserves his time, right/

WEXLER: I reserve my time.

HASTERT: The gentleman from Wisconsin.

SENSENBRENNER: Mr. Speaker, I yield...

WOODRUFF: We've been listening to the opening statements in the House of Reprentatives on an extraordinary night. The House is debating extraordinary legislation that would in effect turn the Terri Schiavo case over to the federal courts overturning what the Florida state courts have done in calling for her feeding tube to withdrawn. Turning it over to the federal courts in the hope that those federal courts will decide to reinsert the feeding tube.

Carol in Atlanta, they've already demonstrated just how emotional are.

LIN: Most definitely. And time is ticking away for Terri Schiavo who's feeding tube was removed, Judy, at 1:45 Eastern on Friday. So, it has been two and a half days where this woman has now been laying without any food or food sustenance or hydration. And that is the urgency, at least, presented by the Senate leadership that the House address this bill as quickly as possible.

We want to get perspective, though, on her medical situation. I mean, how urgent is it really, that Terri Schiavo is now in this particular condition. So joining me now is Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He is our senior medical corresopondent.

Sanjay, clearly a very emotional battle. And lots of vergiage like, she is now starving to death. What condition is Terri Schiavo in having now gone without any food or hydration for two and half days?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESOPNDENT: Well, you remember back in October of 2003 she was actually six and a half days without any nutrition or fluids before they actually reconnected her tube at that point.

You know, when people talk about lack of nutrition, there's all sorts of different things that are happening to the body. And I want to point out a couple of things here. People have been talking about this feeding tube so much, Carol. Let me just point out what a feeding tube actually looks like.

This is essentially what it is here. And I actually have a model. I don't know if you can pick this up there on the camera as well. But this feeding tube is actually placed through skin directly into the stomach, like this. That is essentially what happens here.

What happened on Frida, and what people have been talking so much about, is actually taking this little feeding tube, which has had nutrition going through it, and disconnecting it. Actually capping it off so no more nutrition going through it any longer. At the same time, from what we understand, her IV fluids were also disconnected. So no hydration, no nutrition.

What is more likely to be a problem for her is actually going to be the lack of hydration. What happens in that situation, someone might go into kidney failure. That's going to be one of the first sitations. Subsequently, some of their electrolyte, their potassium and sodium, are going to become imbalance. And subsequently, someone could develop heart failure. That's typically what happens in this sort of situation.

How long it might take, that's more difficult to say. LIN: All right. Does it depend on what physical condition she was in prior?

GUPTA: Yeah. I mean, absolutely. And she's been in a significally debilitated state neurologically for some time. They call it a persistant vegetative state. Again, terms are important here. That is different than a coma.

You can see here what it means: a condition of unresponsiveness to both mental and physical stimuli.

A lot of people have seen these images over and over again of her smiling, of her reacting, of her opening her eyes, her closing her eyes, those are all signs consistant with a persistant vegetative state. That surprises a lot of people.

LIN: But it looks like -- in the videotape, it looks like she's smiling. It looks like she's responding as her mother bends down to kiss her cheek.

GUPTA: It does. And a lot of people have been calling attention to that. I've also heard that, you know, that was a small snippet of four and a half videotape, so hard to know exactly what she was responding to in that situation. I have personally seen someone who is in a persistant vegetative state, if you were to make a loud noise to their right side, they might actually turn their head to the right.

So there is some sort of basic reflex action here.

What there doesn't appear to be is any higher cognitive function, any ability to be able to understand, to communicate in any sort of meaningful way. And this is where it gets tricky now.

A person in a coma does not respond at all. They essentially do not move to painful stimuli, they're not going to do much. And you can see the definition there: a state of deep, often prolonged unconsciousness, usually the result of an injury.

And remember, in Terri Schiavo's case, again, it was more a result of an electrolyte imbalance as a result of bulimia that caused her heart failure originally.

LIN: So, can she feel pain there? I mean, is -- the word that she's starving to death -- if I was starving to death, I imagine that would be a very painful process.

GUPTA: And -- the correct answer is we may never completely know, because it's very hard to obviously study someone who is in a persistant vegetative state and ask them questions and have them respond as to whether or not they are experiencing pain. We have talked to several "end of life" specialists. I mean, people come to the end of their life because of terminal cancer.

And what we have heard from a lot of these end of life specialists is that they at the -- near the end of life, they don't experience hunger or thirst any more. So they may not have the starvation pains.

And I'll say this as well, Carol, a lot of times as a physician -- and this is a situation that does happen many times around the country. I mean, there are probably 10 to 20,000 people today in a persistant vegetative state. And these difficult choices being made by families. Often times what happens concommonently with actually turning off the nutrition and IV fluids, is to also provide comfort measure. And what that typically means and maybe some morphine, some pain medications to make sure.

We don't know if she's experiencing pain, but let's leave any doubt and go ahead and give her pain medication.

LIN: All right. Thanks very much Sanjay. I know you're going to be with us throughout our special coverage. I have lots more questions about the cognitive ability of Terri Schiavo and some of the things that legislators as well as her family and the guardians have been saying about why is there such a discrepency in terms of how they read the signals from this woman.

GUPTA: Absolutely. I'll be here.

LIN: All right. Thanks, Sanjay.

All right. Let's go out, in fact, to the hospice where Terri Schiavo is lying right now. CNN's Bob Franken has been monitoring events out there.

Bob, do you know whether any family is present right now. Or how people are monitoring the situation up at the House of Representatives.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, at the moment, the family is not here. The family being the blood relatives, the ones who have opposed the removal of the tube. And they wanted it reconnected.

Now they are right here right now. Their lawyer has been talking to reporters. And he's explained that the moment that the legislation would pass and he would get the proper paperwork, he would file in two courts in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal court in Atlanta and also at the District Court in Florida. And the hope would be, he said, that the feeding tube could be connected very quickly if the proper procedures were filed.


DAVID GIBBS, SCHINDLER FAMILY LAWYER: We are anticipating that if everything proceeds forwards as is currently planned, that she will start being hydrated and receiving later tonight.

Lots of things continue to move. We received a phone call. And we haven't yet been able to confirm it, but it appears that the Senate has just passed the bill. And you may have to word on that.

And so we are very pleased about that.


FRANKEN: And an update, Robert Schindler who is the father of Terri Schiavo, although he is not watching the Congressional debate right now. And Terri Schiavo, of course, rests inside the hospice.

Her husband, who is the adversary in this, the adversary of the Schindlers, visited with her today. And for awhile, there was a bit of a dust up. There is obviously very bitter feeling between the two sides here. And when Michael Schiavo was inside the hospital, the family Schindlers waited to go in to see their daughter. And they waited and they waited and they finally tried to get in. And the police told them that Michael Schiavo had said not to come in -- Carol.

LIN: All right. Bob Franken, thank you very much for the latest from the hospice down there in Pinellas County, Florida.

Let's go back to the House debate on this issue as we hear from Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman, a Democrat from Florida.


REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN (D) FLORIDA: ...families dealing with the tragic circumstances of a loved one.

And I know the pain that this causes families only too well, because it happened in my own family not even five weeks ago. My husband's family had to make the identical decision to withdrawal sustenance, to disconnect the feeding tube of my husband's aunt. Her children came together to make that very difficult decision and no one in my family felt it was essential that I or any other member of Congress file legislation to stop it.

This type of decision happens every single day to thousands across America. Where will we stop if we allow this to go forward? Today it will be Terri Schiavo, tommorrow it will be someone's brother, or a constituents uncle, or next week, a family member, God forbid, of one of my colleagues or another constituent.

Do we really want to set the precendent of this great body, the United States Congress, to insert ourselves in the middle of family's private matters all across America? If we do this we will end up throwing life, end of life decisions into utter and complete chaos. And we can't and should not do that.

We are members of Congress. We are not doctors. We are not medical experts. We are not bioethicists. We are members of Congress.

When I ran for Congress, I didn't ask my constituents for the right to insert myself in their private, personal family decisions and they don't want me to make those for them. They don't want you to make those for them either. That's the bottom line.

I can't get into the kinds of questions that we're being asked to get into here, because we don't know. We don't know -- I've never met Michael Schiavo, Terri Schiavo, or the Schindlers. And the vast majority of people in the body haven't either.

We don't have the expertise or the facts in enough detail to get into these kinds of decisions and make decisions on these kinds of cases. We're not God, and we're not Terri Schiavo's husband, sister, brother, uncle or relation. We are members of Congress. We make laws. And we uphold the law. And we swore to uphold and protect the constitution. And we are thumbing our nose at the constitution if we do this here tonight.

Now, I've heard a lot of things said about this legislation and about the very proceeding that we're engaging in this evening. I've heard accusations that because this body is debating this legislation, we are threatening, somehow, the life of Ms. Schiavo.

I think it's really important to note, that this is a legislative body created by our forefathers for the express purpose of deliberation and representation. The accusation that because we have three hours of debate on an unprecendented piece of legislation the seeks to insert the federal government in between a family while overruling state courts and circumventing the constitution, that's an outrageous accusation and not worthy of a repsentative elected to craft and debate legislation.

I noticed today that President Bush has returned from Crawford hoping to sign this legislation if it is passed by Congress. I think it is important to note that President Bush when he was governor of Texas in 1999 signed a Texas law that is on the books today that was just used a few days ago to allow a hospital to withdraw over the parents objections the life support of a six month old boy -- over the parents objections.

President Bush signed the law called the Texas Advance Directives Act when he was governor of Texas. This law, that has been used several time, and as recently as a few days ago, liberalized the situations under which a person in Texas can avoid artificial life support. Under it, life support can be withheld or withdrawn if you have an irreversible condition in Texas from which you are expect to eventually pass away.

Indeed this law, signed by then Governor Bush, allows doctors to remove patients from life support if the hospital's ethics committee agrees even over the objections of a family member, only allowing a family 10 days another facility that might accept the patient barring any state judicial intervention.

It appears that the President Bush felt as governor that there was a point at which when doctors felt that there was no further hope for the patient that it is appropriate for an end of life decision to be made even over the objections of family members.

WOODRUFF: We are listening to Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman who is arguing as other Democrats that it is inappropriate for Congress to insert itself in a decision that she said should be made by doctors, by family, and a uniquely personal decision. She said at one point, if we make this decision where will it stop? There are so many other cases that are similar to this one. We're going to take a very short break. When we come back, we're going to speak with the brother of Terri Schiavo. We'll be right back.


WOODRUFF: We are watching live tonight a debate, an extraordinary, unusual debate in the House of Representatives on legislation designed to turn the case of Terri Schiavo, the Florida brain damaged woman who's feeding tube was removed on Friday afteroon, turn that case over to the federal courts in the hopes that they would overturn what the state courts have done in permitting that feeding tube to be withdrawn.

I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington.

And joining me now from the Capital is Terri Schiavo's brother, Bobby Schindler. he joins me from the Russell Senate office building.

Mr. Schindler, we just heard from a Florida congressman, Robert Wexler. He said, it has been 19 judges over the last 15 years who have ruled they have. He said medical experts, neurosurgeons, neurologists have looked at your sister, they've all concluded she is in an irreversable state. And therefore, who are they, the Congress, to turn this in another direction?

BOBBY SCHINDLER, TERRI SCHIAVO'S BROTHER: There is an incredible amount of misinformation out there. In reality, there are more affidavits in the court record from doctors that believe Terri can be helped than doctors who believe that she can't.

So, I think the impetus for what is happening here in Congress is -- throughout this whole process at the state level, Terri was never afforded her own attorney. So we're asking the federal -- to take it in federal courts so they can look to see that Terri was never afforded her own representation. And really, that's what the purpose of this -- of what we're doing here at Congress.

WOODRUFF: The doctors who have examined your sister, Mr. Schindler, have concluded that she is in a persistant vegetative state which is a condition that no one, as my understanding, has been known to be healed from, to return to a normal state. Are you -- are you and your family relying on information from other doctors who say something different?

B. SCHINDLER: Yes. As I said, there are more doctors that are adamant Terri is not in a PVS. There was a woman in Kansas recently that woke up in a condition similar to my sisters. So this notion that people can't get better with this -- the condition their in is absolutely false.

If you would see Terri, you would see absolutely how alive she is, how alert she is, how much she responds, how she's trying to speak with us. There's a reason Michael and his attorney are doing everything they can to keep Terri hidden from the public. Terri could be sitting here right now. She could be on the House floor during this debate in a wheel chair. But they will do everything they can so people can not see what her true condition is.

WOODRUFF: The woman you're referring to in Kansas, is this the woman who woke up after many years of being in a coma?

B. SCHINDLER: She was not in a coma. From my understanding, she was actually in a worse condition than my sister. My sister is already communicating. In fact, there is medical documentation that Terri was back in the early 90's was actually speaking and making words.

WOODRUFF: OK. Because my -- I'm reading an article referring to that Kansas case which describes the woman in Kansas as having been in a deep coma which is a different medical condition.

I also want to bring in, Mr. Schindler, your father, Bob Schindler who is joining us from Florida. Mr. Schindler would you and your son agree that the medical diagnosis of your daughter has been incorrect all these years?

BOB SCHINDLER, TERRI SCHIAVO'S FATHER: Absolutely. First of all, the doctors who have testified that Terri is in this kind of condition have been paid by my son-in-law. So they're paid experts. And the number of doctors that have testified that Terri is not in a PVS far outnumber these paid doctors. And I think Bobby mentioned, we have 33 affidavits on file with the court, most of them are neurologists stating Terri is not in a PVS condition.

Another point is that PVS, from what our understanding is, that it's misdiagnosed at least 30 to 40 percent of the time. So there are so many ingredients in this thing that people aren't aware of. And Terri has been mislabelled for years and years as being in this condition.

WOODRUFF: Mr. Schindler, I think the public who is watching this story and trying very hard to understand it would listen to what you say and what your son is saying, and they might ask, well if that's the case, why haven't the courts ruled in your favor? They've had access to this information.

BOB SCHINDLER: That's a good point...


BOB SCHINDLER: The judge that issued the one death order, he admitted that Terri is cognizant, that she does react. But he said not enough, not enough. That's a big point...


WOODRUFF: We understand that...

Go ahead.


WOODRUFF: I was just going to say that we understand that something like, what is it, 19 different judges over the years have looked at this case.

BOB SCHINDLER: That's not true either.

No one's heard the case -- that's an inflated number. The case has been heard by one state judge who made a decision. And it went into the appellete court. And that's a judge panel who have, for some part, reviewed the case. But from that point on, no one's really reviewed that case. So that number's inflated.

They refuse to hear it.

WOODRUFF: You're saying that the number used by Congressman Wexler, the Democrat, who spoke on the floor a few minutes ago, that you're saying his information is wrong?

BOB SCHINDLER: I'm saying it's inaccurate, yes.

WOODRUFF: Let me also ask...

BOB SCHINDLER: Those numbers are -- go ahead.

WOODRUFF: I want to ask you about -- there was another Florida member of Congress who spoke, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman who said -- she described the situation in her own family. She said very recently, my family had to make the difficult decision to withdraw food and sustenance for her husband's aunt. She talked about how this is a uniquely personal decision and how it really should not be the business of the United States Congress to get involved.

B. SCHINDLER: Can I answer that please?

WOODRUFF: Go ahead, sure.

B. SCHINDLER: This is a family decision. And the family is not making the decision in this case. Michael Schiavo is making the decision. And it astonishes me that Michael tries to portray himself as a loving, caring husband when he has abandoned my sister for the last 12 years and he has neglected her for the last 12 years.

He has another woman, a fiancee, for the last 10 years. He has two women -- I'm sorry, 2 children with this woman. And yet he claims to be a loving, caring husband.

It absolutely is a family decision and Terri's family needs to be making the decisions and they're not given the chance to.

WOODRUFF: But again, let me ask you Bobby Schindler, the same question I asked your father, how is it that if the information so overwhelming in the direction you're saying that the judges have ruled teh way they have?

B. SCHINDLER: Well, I think that's exactly why we need a federal review. We want to make sure that what the state has done is correct.

WOODRUFF: But the federal -- the United States Supreme Court has looked at this, in addition to a few other courts, the state Supreme Court of Florida, and they have said they don't have -- it's not within their jusidiction.

B. SCHINDLER: In the case of my sister, Judge Greer, the state court in this case, has acted as my sister's healthcare proxy. If a judge would also represent someone like Scott Peterson in his trial, I think he would be outraged at the fact that a judge is also representing him as his attorney.

We're asking for a federal review so Terri can be afforded her due process rights. And given the chance at her own representation, something she wasn't given at the state level.

WOODRUFF: I want to also ask you about the comments about Michael Schiavo's attorney on Friday, Mr. Felos. And I want to ask Mr. Schindler this question, your father. He was essentially saying that -- he said the politicians in Washington, Republicans and Democrats, he said, are using your daughter in a political battle over the issue of abortion. Do you see that as part of what is going on here?

BOB SCHINDLER: I don't see how abortion fits into the picture.

What we're doing is asking for Terri to get a fair trial, bottom line. Our family has been trying to get Terri some type of help, she hasn't been aided and received any rehabilitation in close to 12, 13 years. The one particular judge, the circuit court judge has made decisions. And through 2004, he's made 72 decisions when items was in the case, and he's ruled against us 62 times. 10 times he ruled in our favor when there were incidental things, like restoring visitation rights.

Terri's been locked in her room for 5 years, hasn't received fresh air. She's had teeth rotting out of her mouth, because she has had no dental care. Now you tell me if that's fair.


WOODRUFF: It's a very emotional case, there is no question about it.

BOB SCHINDLER: Well, it's emotional, but the girl's been wronged. And it's all in the jurisdiction of one judge who knows all this, he's read affidavits from neurologists who states she's not in the condition that's being portrayed. And he's not helping her. And he's abandonded her. And he's acting as her judge and her guardian. Now that doesn't work. There's a conflict of interest there between what the judge is doing. And it has to be reviewed by another court. It has to be out of his jurisdiction. That's what we're trying to do.

WOODRUFF: Which is what this legislation is all about that the House is debating tonight. BOB SCHINDLER: All we're trying to do is get her a fair trial. And we plead with the House to pass this bill to give Terri a chance. We're pleading with them. We beg them.

WOODRUFF: We're talking with Mr. Bob Schindler who is the father of Terri Schiavo. We're also talking with Bobby Schindler who is the brother of Terri Schiavo. He is right here in Washington at the Capital in the Senate office building.

Gentlemen, we thank you very much.

B. SCHINDLER: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: And I know we'll be wanted to talk with you as this...


WOODRUFF: Please, go ahead. Sure.


B. SCHINDLER: Hey, dad. How are you?

BOB SCHINDLER: Hey, how're you doing? I haven't seen you for awhile.

B. SCHINDLER: Take care of mom, will you?

WOODRUFF: We know that the younger Mr. Schindler has been in Washington since Tuesday of this week working on his sister's case.

So, back to Carol in Atlanta. Carol, this is a family that's been fighting a battle they say has been going on almost the entire 15 years.

LIN: Yeah. Judy, this has gotten to be incredibly bitter between the Schindlers and Michael Schiavo, the legal guardian and Terri Schiavo's husband.

Coming up, I'm going to be talking with Michael Schiavo's attorney about this case and the developments in the House as we speak as legislations is being debated. They're going to have a vote at midnight tonight. And I'll be speaking with Michael Schiavo's attorney.

But in the meantime, Michael Schiavo himself has been closely monitoring the debate on Capital Hill. And he has some bitter words for the U.S. Congress.


MICHAEL SCHIAVO, TERRI SCHIAVO'S HUSBAND: Well, my feeling is that I'm outraged. And I think that every American in this country should also be outraged that this government is trampling all over a personal family matter that has been ajudicated in this courts for 7 years. I think that Congress has more important things to discuss. How about let's discuss laws on keeping pedophiles off the street so they don't murder little girls, how about the homeless children, healthcare for people, medications for the elderly. But no, they're wasting Congress time to talk about my wife who has been ajudicated for 7 years.

TONY HARRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And what's your sense of this, that it's just not the place for Congress, there's no right to do this to step in here, this is your wife and it's no business of the Congress and the president? As you mentioned, it's been going on for, what, 7 years now this litigation? Is that a fair summation of what your feeling?

M. SCHIAVO: Yes. Exactly. I'm outraged. And Tom Delay should be ashamed of himself. Sitting up there making comments and bashing people. He has one side of the case. He has his brother running door to door up there discussing this case and he has no other facts. This is his cause. He found a cause to hide behind, to lighten the load of his other problems.

HARRIS: I have to ask you -- I know you have a life. Presumably, you want to get back to that life as soon as you can. Isn't it enough to just say, look, I fought the fight, I tried as best I could to live up to your wish, but I can't do it any longer?

M. SCHIAVO: You know, I fought this long for Terri and I love her dearly. And I made that promise to her, and I'm going to hold it out. Right now I'm taking it day by day, moment by moment, but I'm going to stay right by her side.


LIN: Michael Schiavo's interview with CNN's Tony Harris.

Earlier in the day, Michael Schiavo had asked that the Schindlers be barred from Tarri Schiavo's room. And he reportedly was by her bedside at one point during this day.

We've got much more, obviously on this case. We're monitoring the House debate. We're going to bring that to you live as soon as the highlights happen. You'll see all players in the drama unfold on Capital Hill.

And in just a moment, I'm going to be talking with a former U.S. attorney Kendall Coffey, one of our legal analysts about whether -- what Congress is doing right now is even legal. Or even if this law passes, will a federal judge even take the case. We'll be right back.


LIN: Welcome back to our special coverage. As the U.S. House of Representatives right now is debating a bill that would transfer legal jurisdiction of the Terri Schiavo case into a federal court. It has never really fully been heard beyond a state court. It has been appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, always bounced back to the state level. But the U.S. House of Representatives in this extraordinar Palm Sunday session passing a bill enabling a federal judge, potentially, to reinstate her feeding tube.

We want to take a look at some of the legal issues here. And I'm going to talk with former U.S. attorney Kendall Coffey who is one of our legal experts about this case.

Kendall, are you with me right now?


LIN: Kendall, in taking a look at this issue -- and I'm hoping you've had a chance to take a look at the language of this bill. It is very specific. It actually says, for the relief of the parents of Teresa Marie Schiavo.

How unusual is it for Congress to craft a bill for a specific person or family?

COFFEY: It may be unprecedented in the sense that a bill is being crafted not just for specific people, but for a specific case that has already been pending in litigation. As we know, as recently as Friday, the federal court in Tampa said that its doors were closed to the parents of Terri Schiavo, that the matter had been heard time and time again in the state system and that the doors would not be open in the federal court.

What this bill would do is basically say to that same federal court open the door in the federal court and we're going to have certain issues heard by this federal forum that otherwise could not have been things that could have been brought before the court.

LIN: Well, is that going to stand up to a constitutional test? Does this sound like Congress is directing a federal judge to hear this case? Wouldn't that be a violation of the separation of powers?

COFFEY: It's exactly what they're going. They hope that they have crafted it in a limited way that will avoid a head on collision with separation of powers. Certainly, if they told a federal district judge who to decide the case, that is, judge, you've got to reinsert the tubes immediately, that would be such an overreaching from the legislative to the judicitial function.

What they hope they've done, Carol, by being more limited is saying, we're not trying to control the outcome, just the process. All we want is another forum. That more limited approach has got a better chance for succes, but I still think, in the end, this law is going to be struck down.

But Carol, if it's struck down some day, it could still buy some additional time if the judge decides to, in effect order, a halt to the withdrawn (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

And that's the key issue right now. Is some federal judge, either in Tampa or Atlanta where the federal appeals court has been engaged, going to intervene after this bill is passed and say hydration and nutrition have to be restored to Terri Schiavo.

LIN: Kendall, doesn't this woman deserve to have her case heard in federal court? What's the harm?

COFFEY: Well, I think the question, in an emotional level, the immediate reaction is, what's the harm. I think that judges are looking at something that's much more profound. The fact that the case has reached a final outcome after many, many hours, and in fact, many, many judges, Carol. And the concern is setting a precedent from the judicial perspective. If a spectacularly painful, agonizing case can cause a Congress to intervene and tell the courts what to do, where does it end/

There can be other life or death cases tragically. What if somebody needs a heart transplant urgently. Does the Congress have the right to tell the hospital or tell a court or to tell somebody how to intervene in a specific case.

So, I think courts are looking at our history, 200 years, where it has been judges that have decided these very painful, agonizing cases. And they're also looking at the future. And they're concerned about future one case interventions by the Congress.

LIN: All right. Well, right now, this woman's -- the future of this woman is at stake as the U.S. House of Representatives debate that matter right now.

Thanks very much, Kendall. I know you're going to be with us for the next couple of hours -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Thanks, Carol.

Well, President Bush, as we mentioned earlier, did return to the White House today from his Texas ranch. White House spokesman Scott McClellan says the president wants to be available to sign any legislation that emerges from Congress to prolong Terri Schiavo's life.

Our White House correspondent Dana Bash is with me right here in our study. Dana, this was not a planned return.

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president, Judy, wasn't supposed to come back to Washington until a week from Tomorrow, actually. And essentially what happened is that his aides were on Capital Hill yesterday as they were trying to work out a compromise that they did find. Once that happened, the president -- one of his top aides, Joe Hagan, went to his ranch in Texas and told him about it. And at 6:00 last night we're told that he said, OK, I'm going to come back to Washington.

Why? Because he said that he believes every hour in this matter counts. And that the White House says that he is so eager to do this now, because he said that it is important to note -- do not err -- you have to err on the side of life.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Listen to how conservative politicians are describing their quest to keep Terri Schiavo alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has to do with the culture of life.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: The society that is built on a culture of life.

BASH: Culture of life is a catch phrase for abortion opponent. Now Terri Schiavo is exhibit A of an evolving movement and a broadening debate over how to define right to life.

WENDY WRIGHT, CONCERNED WOMEN FOR AMERICA: This case is really mobilizing people and helping them to understand that the attack on the culture of life extends beyond abortion.

BASH: From researching stem cells to cloning to ventilators and feeding tubes, with each scientific development new questions about when life starts, when it ends and who decides.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must strive to build a culture of life. Medical research can help us reach that goal by developing treatments and cures that save lives and help people overcome disabilities.

BASH: Some religious conservatives want the definition of life as broad as possible. For them, Schiavo is a rallying cry.

In phone calls and on Web sites, groups urge activists to call lawmakers. G.O.P. leaders, wading in unchartered waters to change Schiavo's fate, insist they're following the spirit of the constitution not politics.

REP. TOM DELAY, (R) TEXAS: This is about Terri and her life and her family that wants to take care of her. It has nothing to do with politics. And it's disgusting to even suggest it.

BASH: But Republican talking points circulating in the Senate suggest some do see a potential upside against Democrats on the ballot next year. "This is a great political issue because Senator Nelson of Florida has already refused to become a co-sponsor and this is a tough issue for Democrats," a G.O.P. memo says.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. How are you you? You look so pretty.

MARTHA BURK, NATL. COUNCIL OF WOMEN'S ORGS: I think the Democrats are moving toward the right culturally. I think they are trying to look like junior Republicans. And in some cases, like this one, we see it most starkly.

BASH: Democrats stung from a series of electoral losses among social conservatives are by in large biting their tongues on the Schiavo matter.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BASH: But there are some Democrats who do criticize both Congress and the president for overreaching, they say, for abusing their power. But Judy, the White House responds to that saying that this is an extraordinary, complex matter. And that in that case, the president believes that life should be protected at all stages.

WOODRUFF: It's very clear where the president sides on this.

Dana, thank you very much.

We are going to take a short break. When we come back. We're going to look at whether Terri Schiavo is in a persistant vegetative state. Why isn't that a question that is simple to answer?

We're also going to talk with Michaels Schiavo's attorney.

We'll be back with more coverage of this live debate on the floor of the House of Representatives.



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