Blanco signs limits in 'Schiavo' cases

Law prevents spouses cohabitating with another from making decisions

The Advocate
Capitol news bureau

A bill preventing husbands and wives living in marriagelike settings with someone else from making medical decisions for their disabled spouse was signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Kathleen Blanco.

House Bill 675 was sparked by the late Terri Schiavo, whose Florida case drew national attention because of a dispute between her husband and Schiavo's parents.

The new law excludes spouses from making life-sustaining decisions if he or she "is cohabited with another person in the manner of married persons or who has been convicted of any crime of violence."

State law does not define what a spouse is. Louisiana has a living-will law, which allows residents to spell out what kind of medical treatment they want.

The law also revamps living wills after Aug. 15.

Forms will allow those who use them to specify whether they want food and water as life-sustaining measures. Living wills prepared before Aug. 15 will still be valid.

Schiavo's husband waged a successful legal fight to have Terri Schiavo's feeding tube removed, which the woman's parents opposed.

She died 13 days later.

Critics of the husband said he lived with and had children with another woman during the last years his wife was comatose.

The bill originally said the state assumed patients would opt for a feeding tube if there was no written or oral declaration of any kind.

That provision was removed during the legislative process.


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