How to get your State to sponsor a Starvation/Dehydration Prevention Bill

Zen Garcia

March 28, 2006

It was just over a year ago that six friends and I converged on Pinellas Park, Fla. as Not Dead Yet where protest for Terri's right to life as a person with a disability and her family's right to care for her out of love and compassion. It was like a circus outside the hospice, with so many different people from a wide range of beliefs, mostly in support of Terri and her life. I couldn't believe, as America could not believe that this nightmare scenario had been forced upon her again and in the supposed land of the free, home of the brave where we offer equal citizenship to all so that as Americans we have every right to equal opportunity in which to pursue life, love, liberty, and happiness; the American dream.

None of us expected that she would be murdered, that the whole world would be forced to watch, and that no one in any position of authority would do anything to uphold her God given right to life. I had just flown back to my house the day before she passed away. I was destroyed. Terri's death affected me greatly and being a writer/advocate, I resolve to insure that this did not happen in my own state of Georgia and yet, almost immediately upon getting home, advocates informed us of the crisis with Ora Mae Magouirk. Different circumstance, but like scenario, she was being starved/dehydrate against her wishes and even though she was supposedly protected by a viable 'living will' which stated that she would not desire emergency care should she be in a coma or 'vegetative state' and of which she was neither.

Terri had not even been buried yet and another high profile case of starvation/dehydration was taking place. As Advocates we rallied in support of her and praise God were able to mount enough pressure on the situation to save her life, supporting a part of her family that cared enough about her to preserve her dignity until the end. Mae Magouirk passed in her own time and when God wanted to take her. She was able to enjoy a chicken sandwich, apple pie, and ice cream days before her passing and I was glad for it. But wanting to do something more to protect Georgians with disabilities from ever having to go through a situation where the end result could be forced dehydration/starvation, I compiled a list of all the e-mails for every Georgia Senator and Representative, and writing a note of concern began asking for assistance with a bill to Prevent Forced Starvation/Dehydration.

I e-mailed all of them, a report by the Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics of the National Right to Life Committee, released April 15, 2005, just two weeks after the murder of Terri which absolutely confirmed that starvation/dehydration is a regular form of “treatment” for those whose lives are considered not worth living. When asked, WILL YOUR ADVANCE DIRECTIVE BE FOLLOWED? The Report concludes that, "The public overwhelmingly believes patient and family choices for life-preserving measures should be respected, even when health care providers disapprove. However, health care providers are increasingly denying life-preserving measures in contravention of patient and family directives choosing them. Their denial of care as 'futile' is often based on 'quality of life' rather than physiological grounds and that most state laws fail to protect patients and families who want food, fluids, or life support when health care providers deny it."

Out of all the Representatives and Senators I e-mailed, only two replied back to me and over the course of three months, I established dialogue with one Senator in particular and over time, we were able to share correspondence and ideas on how best to protect people and families in Georgia on this issue and others. I then did a search of the web and compiled for her, all the various Prevention of Starvation/Dehydration bills that I could find from various states in both house and senate form so that, in having them all, she could pull together the best bill that she could. I am proud to say that Senator Nancy Schaefer introduced SR1067, A RESOLUTION creating the Senate Study Committee on the Prevention of the Starvation and Dehydration of Persons with Disabilities; and for other purposes. It passed the Senate 43-0 on 3/28/2006.

Georgia will have a Starvation/Dehydration Prevention Act introduced early next legislative session. I would encourage advocates in every State to try a similar approach in advocating for a starvation/dehydration prevention act in your own state. We can not let this issue just pass by without us challenging the slippery slope the culture of death wants to push America down threatening our moral integrity. We cannot allow such heinous behavior to continue to being perpetrated on the most vulnerable of citizens by the various bio-ethics hospice and hospital boards. And while most people are aware of advance directives, they still have no idea that ‘living wills’ do nothing to protect your lives and only protect doctors and hospitals from prosecution. For more information, please check my website at and please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about advocating for a bill to protect people in your own state. Do it in honor of Terri. May we always remember. I know I will never forget.