Law Center Asks To Represent Terri Schiavo's Parents; Terri Is Again
Smiling At Parents, Lawyer Says
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 30, 2003
TAMPA, FLORIDA--The American Center for Law and Justice, a Virginia-based conservative public interest law firm, announced Thursday that it is intervening on behalf of Terri Schiavo's parents in their son-in-law's challenge against Governor Jeb Bush.
"This is a very important case involving the state's ability to act to protect human life," said Jay Sekulow, ACLJ's chief counsel.
Sekulow said he believes Michael Schiavo's lawsuit against the governor is "legally flawed" and that the governor and Legislature had the constitutional authority to pass a law to save the life of someone in Terri's situation.
"It is clear the governor has the constitutional authority to act to save the life of someone on death row," Sekulow added. "This case is no different."
"What the Legislature and the governor did is not only appropriate, but legally sound and constitutional as well. We are hopeful that the court will permit Terri's parents to enter this case and we look forward to working with the Governor's office and the state attorney general to defend the life-saving actions of the state in court."
Sekulow requested that ACLJ be allowed to represent Terri's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, in the upcoming case. Pat Anderson, the Schindlers' current attorney, would continue to represent them in all other aspects of the case.
Mr. Schiavo filed legal briefs Wednesday asking the court to overturn "Terri's Law", a measure passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor on October 22, ordering Terry's gastronomy tube to be reinserted into her stomach. The feeding tube had been removed under a Florida court order six days earlier. The law also called for an independent guardian to replace Mr. Schiavo by next week.
Mr. Schiavo's attorneys, supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, are arguing that the Legislature and governor overstepped their bounds by passing the law to go against court decisions. Schiavo is also seeking an injunction to have the feeding tube removed again and to remain Terri's guardian.
Terri collapsed in February 1990 and her brain was without oxygen for several minutes. The courts have accepted doctors' testimony that Terri has since been in a "persistent vegetative state", where she cannot feel anything and from which she cannot recover. They have also accepted Mr. Schiavo's claims that his wife had told him she would not want to be kept alive "by artificial means". Her gastronomy tube was removed on October 15 by order of Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge George Greer.
Terri's parents claim that she is responsive and alert, and that she would improve if Mr. Schiavo would allow her to undergo rehabilitative therapies. Some experts have said that Terri is not in a vegetative state and that she could learn to swallow, thereby making the feeding tube unnecessary.
Governor Bush pushed the Legislature to pass the bill during a special session after his office received tens of thousands of messages from disability rights groups and right-to-life advocates supporting Terri's right to continue living.
Pat Anderson told reporters Thursday that Terri's reflexes have been improving in the week since the feeding tube was reinserted. The 39-year-old is again smiling when her mother enters the room, Anderson said.
Columnist Dan Sernoffsky, wrote in the Lebanon (Pennsylvania) Daily News that descriptions of Terri are eerily similar to those given hundreds of thousands of people in the last century: "Lebensunwerten Leben" (Life unworthy of life).
"The debate about Terri Schiavo has been carefully couched in terms like 'death with dignity' and 'right to die,' and the arguments supporting the man who wants her dead, her husband, seem so cogent," wrote Sernoffsky. "What hasn't been asked is how much dignity there is in starving someone to death, which is the death to which she was consigned when Michael Schiavo first managed to get her feeding tube removed."
"ACLJ Asks Florida Court to Permit Intervention of Terri Schindler Schiavo's Parents to Enter Constitutional Case" (ACLJ)
"Florida medical directors issue statement opposing 'Terri's Law' (Associated Press via Sun-Sentinel)
"Who decides who's unworthy to live?" (Lebanon Daily News)
Extended coverage: "Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express)
Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation