Terri Schiavo's husband slams Jeb Bush ad as 'disgusting'

By Ann Marie Awad
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is taking heat from the husband of the late Terri Schiavo, who says the use of her image in a campaign ad is "disgusting." Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is taking heat from the husband of the late Terri Schiavo, who says the use of her image in a campaign ad is "disgusting." Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

PINELLAS PARK, Fla., Jan. 27 (UPI) -- An ad by Right to Rise USA, the super PAC supporting former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for president, uses footage of the late Terri Schiavo, a decision her husband slammed as "disgusting."

The ad calls Bush "a man of deep faith who fought time and again for the right to life," while flashing an image of Schiavo on the screen.


Schiavo suffered a heart attack in 1990 that caused damage to her brain, leaving her in a persistent vegetative state. In 1998, her husband Michael petitioned the state to remove her feeding tube and allow her to die. Schiavo's parents fought back, arguing their daughter was conscious. The battle went on for seven years in the courts, eventually reaching up through the Florida legislature before she died in 2003.


"It is simply disgusting that Jeb Bush and his super PAC would exploit my wife's tragedy for his crude political gain. Shame on Jeb Bush," Schiavo's husband Michael told The Tampa Bay Times.

The ad, currently airing in South Carolina, also features an image of a vigil outside of Schiavo's home in Pinellas Park, Fla., with someone holding a "Jeb" sign.

"Using his disgraceful intervention in our family's private trauma to advance his political career shows that he has learned nothing. He's proud of the fact that he used the machinery of government to keep a person alive through extraordinary artificial means -- contrary to the orders of the court that were based on the court's determination, made over 6 years of litigation, that doing so would be against her wishes," he said. "What the campaign video shows is that if he ever got his hands on the power of government again, he would do the same thing again, maybe next time to your family."

In 2003, Michael Schiavo won the right to remove his wife's feeding tube. The legislature hastily passed "Terri's law," which gave then-Gov. Bush the right to intervene. The same day nurses removed Schiavo's feeding tube, Bush sent armed officers to remove her from hospice, take her to a hospital and have a feeding tube surgically reinserted.


Terri's law was later overturned as unconstitutional, but the case didn't end there. In 2005, the federal government, and President George W. Bush became involved. In March 2005, the House and Senate passed the "Act for the relief of the parents of Theresa Marie Schiavo," originally proposed by then-Sens. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., and Mel Martinez, R-Fla. The bill transferred jurisdiction of Schiavo's case -- which had already been closed -- to federal courts. President Bush returned to Washington, D.C., from vacation to sign it into law.

Even at the time, the thought of exploiting Schiavo's case for political gain had not escaped some. Shortly before the bill was signed into law, a memo from Republican party leaders surfaced indicating that the debate over Schiavo was "a great political issue" in the upcoming mid-term elections.

The case bore out in federal courts similarly as it had in the state courts -- Schiavo's husband won the right to remove his wife's feeding tube. Gov. Bush obeyed a court order from a state judge barring Schiavo's forcible removal by law enforcement. Schiavo died on March, 31, 2005.

An autopsy showed Schiavo had irreversible brain damage and was blind. Examiners determined Schiavo could not have been aware of her surroundings, and that no treatment would have improved her condition.


Even after Schiavo died, Bush asked then-State Attorney Bernie McCabe to conduct an inquiry into whether or not there was "criminal activity" evident in Schiavo's case. Bush specifically referred to the timing of Schiavo's collapse in 1990 and the quickness with which her husband called 911. McCabe responded that there was insufficient evidence for a criminal investigation.

Last year, Politico asked Michael Schiavo what he would say to Bush if he spoke to him directly.

"Why would you put me and my family through hell?" Schiavo responded.

Bush has never spoken to Schiavo, even throughout the ordeal.

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