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"Schiavo case highlights dangers of UK Mental Capacity Bill" say CMF and LCF

Published: 23rd March 2005

In the light of the Terri Schiavo case, the Christian Medical Fellowship and Lawyers' Christian Fellowship today urged the House of Lords to accept an amendment to the Mental Capacity Bill tomorrow which would ensure that people granted power of attorney are not given authority to make life and death healthcare decisions on behalf of mentally incapacitated patients.

CMF General Secretary Peter Saunders said: “The tragic situation unfolding in the USA with Terri Schiavo illustrates the profound difficulties of granting an individual Power of Attorney to make life-and-death healthcare decisions for somebody without capacity. We don’t know what Terri really wanted, and whether her husband Michael is accurately describing her wishes or whether her parents and other family members taking the opposite view are correct. But the case illustrates how decisions made by those close to a patient can be swayed by personal interests and financial gain.”

Terri Schiavo, 41, who has been in a brain-damaged state since 1990, has received no food or water since Friday, 18th March. A three-judge panel in Atlanta, Georgia, ruled by 2-1 today to deny the parents' appeal for doctors to resume feeding her a day after a judge in Florida also refused a similar request. Mrs Schiavo's feeding tube was removed at the request of her husband, Michael Schiavo, who says she would not want to be kept alive artificially and has no hope for recovery.  Her parents, the Schindlers disagree and claim that Terry is recovering. Mr Schiavo, who has since had children with a new partner, and the Schindlers have been locked in a legal battle for years over whether the feeding tube should be removed. A lawyer representing her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, said they would file another appeal.

Public Policy Officer for LCF, Andrea Williams added, “The Schiavo case clearly illustrates why the proposed amendment should be passed. We strongly urge the House of Lords to follow the wise course it has already adopted with respect to Court Appointed deputies not having power over life and death, and accept the proposed amendment barring those with power of attorney from making life and death decisions.” 

The House of Lords will tomorrow consider the proposed amendment during the 3rd Reading of the Mental Capacity Bill.

For further information:

Steven Fouch (CMF Head of Communications) 020 7234 9668

Media Enquiries:

Alistair Thompson on 07970 162 225

About CMF:

Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) was founded in 1949 and is an interdenominational organisation with over 5,000 doctors, 900medical and nursing students and 300 nurses and midwives as members in all branches of medicine, nursing and midwifery. A registered charity, it is linked to over 100 similar bodies in other countries throughout the world.

CMF exists to unite Christian healthcare professionals to pursue the highest ethical standards in Christian and professional life and to increase faith in Christ and acceptance of his ethical teaching.

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