Terri Schiavo Matter Proves That The Value of Life Should Not Be Limited By Tort Reform

In a recent press release, Governor Jeb Bush had this to say about Terri Schiavo’s death: “Many across our state and around the world are deeply grieved by the way Terri died. I feel that grief very sharply as well. I remain convinced, however, that Terri’s death is a window through which we can see the many issues left unresolved in our families and in our society.”

I can only hope that his statement is one of empathy that includes the many victims – mothers, fathers, daughters, sons and family members who are condemned to the very grief he speaks of due to medical malpractice or negligence. I am also hopeful that the “window” he is looking through provides a different view than the one he and President Bush have been promoting over the last four years in an attempt to limit victim’s rights. Governor Bush and President Bush are proponents of tort reform – placing limits on damages for pain and suffering, reducing access to courts by those who can’t afford an hourly lawyer, and limiting damages to those who have little or no economic value.

In addressing the Schiavo matter, President Bush said: “I urge all to build a culture of life; where all Americans are welcomed and valued and protected, especially those who live at the mercy of others. The essence of civilization is that the strong have a duty to protect the weak.” However, under Bush’s tort reform plan, not all are valued equally and the weak are not protected from the strong. Under Bush’s plan, had Terri Shiavo been in her condition due to medical negligence, the jury award for pain and suffering for her family would be capped at $250,000. If Terri were a surgeon or a high earning professional, her economic damages for lost wages would be in the millions, due to the loss of her salary over her life expectancy. However, under Bush’s plan, if Terri were a homemaker, she would have no damages for lost wages. She would be “valued” differently. Bush’s tort reform plan basically says that pain and suffering has its limits and some people are of greater value to our society than others.

It is ironic that Governor Bush and President Bush are using words like “pain”, “grief” and “distress” regarding someone they hardly knew, claiming the we must “value” and “protect” life at all cost, while promoting legislation that is aimed at limiting victim’s rights to restitution for those very same things. Apparently they have decided what the value of life should be and they have capped it at $250,000. Hopefully, Terri’s death is indeed “a window through which we can see the many issues left unresolved in our families and in our society” and people can finally see tort reform for what it is – the protection of insurance companies (the strong) and not the victims (the weak).

Governor Bush ended his Press Release statement by saying: “May all of us whose hearts were moved during the life of Terri Schiavo grow in wisdom at its ending.” I wholeheartedly agree.