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Congressman Chris Smith
Chris Smith

Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for
yielding me this time.

Mr. Speaker, we meet tonight under extraordinary circumstances, and I for one am very grateful to the Speaker and majority leader DELAY for bringing us back because a much-loved disabled woman in Florida has been ordered to die by starvation and dehydration. We meet tonight because Terri Schiavo's family, including her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, refuse to allow their precious daughter, who is not in a coma nor is she terminally ill nor is she in a persistent vegetative state, to be killed by starving her to death.

Disabled people deserve no less than everyone else deserves, to have their fundamental human rights protected and properly asserted. We meet here tonight because there are serious questions whether Terri Schiavo's estranged husband, Michael, who has abandoned Terri for another woman and has had two kids with the other woman, could be trusted as a legal guardian for a woman for whom he has sought death for many years.

Let us not forget she has been in a hospice for 5 years. My mother was in a hospice. She had terminal brain cancer and was dying. One goes into a hospice when they are in the process of dying. Terri was not dying.

Mention was made earlier by the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Wexler) that everyone agrees that Terri is in a persistent vegetative state. That's not true. Let me remind my colleagues that no less than 14 independent medical professionals, including six neurologists, have said she is not in a persistent vegetative state.

Let me also point out to my colleagues Dr. William Hammesfahr, an M.D., board certified neurologist from Clearwater, Florida has testified, and he has signed an affidavit as recently as March 6 of this year, and he has said Ms. Schiavo is not in a persistent vegetative state. He goes on to point out that she could benefit, and I will include this full statement in the RECORD, from medical interventions that are available right now as we meet, she could be getting therapies, medical and otherwise, that would make her situation all that much better. All of that has been denied to her. She has sat in a hospice to languish denied these basic medical provisions and procedures that could enhance her life.

I would hope that we would vote for this legislation.


Geneva, Switzerland – Congressman Chris Smith, who is participating in a United Nations Human Rights conference in Geneva, made the following comments upon hearing the news of Terri Schiavo’s death today as a result of deliberate dehydration and starvation.
“I offer my deepest condolence to the Schindler family, Terri Schiavo’s parents and her siblings, Suzanne and Bobby.  Having spent much time with Bobby when he was in Washington seeking support for his sister in Congress, I cannot imagine the depth of their anguish and sorrow at the loss and killing of their beloved Terri.
“The deliberate dehydration, starvation and killing of Terri Schiavo, a healthy but disabled woman, exposes an extremely cruel, merciless and dysfunctional element within the American judicial system.  A just and civil society does not use water as a weapon and does not seek to justify the killing of an innocent disabled woman who had no voice and no one to objectively represent her.   
“Despite the pleas of her parents, siblings and friends, as well as new information provided by medical experts, state and federal courts only considered the information provided by people who had obvious conflicts of interest –her estranged husband and his attorney who once sat on the board of the hospice where Terri was warehoused to die.
“The fundamental human rights of disabled people have suffered a tremendous blow as Terri Schiavo was sentenced to die and then denied her own representation and a new and full review by federal courts.  Evidence of possible misdiagnosis of her condition, as well as evidence from a friend that Terri did not agree with Karen Ann Quinlan’s parents’ decision to pull her off life support, was never considered by the courts.  This prompted Congress to require the federal district court to determine de novo any claim of a violation of any of Terri’s rights notwithstanding any prior State court determination (Public Law 109-3). 

“Congress has always had the responsibility to protect the weak and vulnerable among us.  We must now move swiftly, institute a full inquiry into this case, and identify   legislative reforms that will better protect the rights of those who are not near death, are not suffering a terminal illness, and whose so-called wishes “to die” have been credibly contested by family and friends.”


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