Terri Schiavo's Condition Improving; Long-time Doctor
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 24, 2003
TAMPA, FLORIDA--Parents of Terri Schiavo, 39, said their daughter appeared to be recovering two days after her feeding tube was reinserted under orders of Governor Jeb Bush and the Florida Legislature.
"She's tired, but she just looks wonderful," said her father, Robert Schindler, after visiting Terri for more than an hour Thursday. "I think she's out of harm's way."
Family members were relieved that Terri's internal organs apparently were not significantly damaged during the six days she was without food or water.
New sources also reported on Thursday that Dr. Victor Gambone, the physician in charge of Terri's medical care for the past five years, has resigned.
Gambone, a specialist in geriatric and internal medicine, was one of a number of doctors who testified that Terri was in a "persistent vegetative state" from which she could not recover. Gambone also testified that disconnecting her feeding tube would allow Terri to die peacefully and without pain.
Terri's gastronomy tube was removed on Wednesday, October 15, under the orders of Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge George W. Greer. The judge had repeatedly sided with Michael Schiavo, Terri's husband and guardian, since he filed a petition to have the feeding tube removed so his wife would die of starvation and dehydration. Schiavo claimed that his wife told him she would not want to live "by artificial means", some time before she collapsed in February 1990 and was without oxygen for several minutes.
After protests from tens of thousands of disability rights advocates and right-to-life supporters, Governor Bush pushed a law through the state legislature earlier this week allowing him to go against the courts and order Terri's feeding tube reinstalled. The law also called for an independent guardian to be appointed for Terri.
Mr. Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, said Thursday that he would continue the legal fight to have Terri's feeding tube removed again. Felos plans to argue that the new law violates Terri's right to refuse medical care. Some legal scholars have said the law is unconstitutional because the legislature and the governor cannot pass laws that would overturn court rulings, nor can they write laws that apply to specific individuals.
Felos also said that the trust fund set up to provide for Terri's care has been depleted to the point where Medicaid money is needed to cover the day-to-day costs in the hospice. Schiavo received the $1 million from a malpractice insurance settlement in 1992. After $300,000 in legal fees, the remaining $700,000 was set up in the trust fund. Felos says just $55,000-$65,000 remains in the trust.
Terri's parents, along with a number of doctors, believe that she is alert and responsive and might benefit from therapies, including speech and feeding therapies. They also believe that Mr. Schiavo has abused Terri, that he may have contributed to her initial collapse, and that he wants her to die so he can marry another woman with whom he has lived for several years. Her parents had claimed that their son-in-law wanted what's left of the insurance settlement, which he would inherit if Terri dies.
Disability rights advocates have been watching Terri's situation closely for several years. Many note that people with certain disabilities are condemned to die because others believe they are "better off dead".
"It is very wrong to assume that there is only religious motivation in saving Terri," activist Rus Cooper-Dowda wrote in an open letter to journalists who have missed the disability message in telling Terri's story.
"There are more disabled people in the United States than there are people in Canada," Cooper-Dowda wrote. "As goes Terri, so goes us. The odds are very good so goes you."
"Schiavo's doctor of five years quits case" (Palm Beach Post)
"A Disabled Journalist Talks To Journalists About Terri Schiavo" by Rus Cooper-Dowda (Inclusion Daily Express)
"Terri's life is still tenuous" (World Net Daily)
"Terri's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express)
Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation