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Terri Schiavo Case Heard In Federal Court
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 3, 2003

TAMPA, FLORIDA--Michael Schiavo has violated the rights of his wife, Terri Schindler-Schiavo, by withholding medical treatment and refusing to permit her to be fed by mouth, an attorney for her parents alleged Tuesday in Federal District Court.

Christopher A. Ferrara, a New Jersey attorney with the American Catholic Lawyers Association and who is representing Terri's parents, told U.S. District Judge Richard A. Lazzara that Robert and Mary Schindler suspected Michael Schiavo of blocking what would have been Terri's third recent admission to a nearby hospital early Saturday -- in an effort to speed up her death.

Terri has been in what Florida courts have ruled as a "persistent vegetative state" since she collapsed during a heart attack and was without oxygen for several minutes in 1990. She is able to breathe on her own, but is given nourishment through a feeding tube implanted in her stomach. For the last six years, Michael Schiavo has said that his wife would have not wanted to live in her condition. Pinellas Circuit Judge George Greer has set a hearing for September 11, at which time he is expected to schedule the removal of Terri's feeding tube.

Terri's parents say that Terri is responsive, alert, laughs and tries to talk. They are suspicious of Michael Schiavo and claim that he wants Terri to die, in part, so he can have what's left of a several hundred thousand dollar insurance settlement which he would inherit if she dies. They have been fighting the courts for years, even enlisting the support of Governor Jeb Bush, whose suggestions were ignored by Greer last week.

Terri was transported by ambulance to Morton Plant Hospital from Hospice Woodside Saturday morning. It was her second visit to the hospital since she was treated for a lung infection and other ailments two weeks earlier.

But Terri was sent back to the hospice under the orders of her husband, who is also her guardian. Michael later said there was no need for her to be readmitted to the hospital Saturday morning.

Ferrara told Judge Lazzara on Tuesday that the Schindlers are worried that once Greer schedules the removal of Terri's feeding tube, Michael Schiavo will keep the parents from trying to spoon feed Terri.

"(The Schindlers) are about to lose their daughter because no one wants to put a teaspoon of Jell-O to her mouth," Ferrara said. "It's insane."

Ferrara said Michael Schiavo's actions violated Terri's rights under federal laws including the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Lazzara refused to block Judge Greer's orders, but told Ferrara to file an amended version of his complaint within 10 days. Lazzara also gave Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, 10 additional days to respond before another hearing could be held in federal court. Both sides agreed that Greer will likely schedule the feeding tube removal far enough in the future to allow Lazzara time to consider the new federal lawsuit.

In related news, Pamela Hennessey, who has been representing the Schindlers, has filed affidavits from three former staff members -- including a registered nurse -- of a nursing home where Terri had stayed. The affidavits claim that Michael Schiavo intimidated the nursing home's management and staffs into refusing therapies for his wife. The sworn statements allege, among other things, that Terri was visibly shaken after his visits, and that Michael appeared overjoyed whenever she was ill.

Related resources:
"The Federal Case and related documents..." (Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation)
"Federal Judge Kills Bid To Bar Schiavo Ruling" (Tampa Tribune)
"Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express)


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