Guardian Appointed To Terri Schiavo Despite Parents'
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 31, 2003
TAMPA, FLORIDA--A judge has appointed a medical professor to be an advisory guardian for Terri Schiavo, in spite of concerns by her parents that the professor is biased against their position that she be allowed to continue living.
Pinellas County Chief Judge David Demers on Friday named Dr. Jay Wolfson, director of the Florida Health Information Center at the University of South Florida, as an independent guardian ad litem to represent Terri's interests in legal matters only. Demers gave Wolfson 30 days to examine Terri's situation and recommend to Governor Jeb Bush whether or not she continue being fed through a gastronomy tube. Wolfson, who has a law degree, will not replace Michael Schiavo as guardian on any other matters.
Terri's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, have been fighting to keep their daughter alive against the wishes of her husband and guardian. The Schindlers' attorney, Pat Anderson, told the court that they do not trust Wolfson to be objective in the case. They cited a television interview in which the professor reportedly spoke out against "Terri's Law", which was passed by the legislature and governor last week to spare her life.
Attorneys representing Mr. Schiavo and the American Civil Liberties Union filed legal briefs Wednesday asking the court to declare the new law unconstitutional. They claimed that the legislature and governor overstepped their bounds when they passed the law on October 22, because they improperly over-rode the court's earlier decisions regarding Terri.
The new law ordered Terri's feeding tube to be reinserted into her stomach six days after it had been removed under a Florida court order, and for a guardian ad litem to make unbiased recommendations to the governor. The legislature passed the bill during a special session after the governor's office received tens of thousands of messages from disability rights groups and right-to-life advocates supporting Terri's right to continue living.
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 feeding tube was removed on October 15 by order of Pinellas Judge George Greer.
Terri's parents claim that she is responsive and alert, and that she might 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. They have been fighting Mr. Schiavo's plans to end Terri's life for nearly ten years.
On Thursday, an association of nursing home and hospice doctors said that the legislature and governor were inappropriately interfering with a patient's private "end-of-life" decisions.
Disability rights groups responded with outrage and disbelief Friday to the ACLU and the doctors' positions.
"If this situation related to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the rights of African-Americans or non-disabled women were threatened, the ACLU would jump in on the side of saving, not ending, life," said Jim Ward of ADA Watch. "It's frightening that the opinions and desires of a person with a disability are so devalued that Terri Schiavo's life could be ended on the basis of hearsay from a husband who may have conflict of interest."
"People with significant cognitive disabilities, like all Americans, deserve to have their lives protected by the government," said disability activist Paul Timmons of Charleston, South Carolina, in a separate statement.
On their website, Terri's parents and supporters have listed a number of alleged abuses by Mr. Schiavo that they want Florida's Adult Protective Services to investigate.
"Fla. Judge Appoints Professor As Terri Schiavo Guardian" (Associated Press via WKMG-TV6)
"Issues Surrounding Terri Schindler-Schiavo Are Disability Rights Issues, Say National Disability Organizations" (Ragged Edge)
Expanded Coverage: "Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express)
Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation