Court Denies Schindlers' Request To Join Case With Governor
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 4, 2003
TAMPA, FLORIDA--A Pinellas County Circuit Judge on Tuesday denied Terri Schiavo's parents the chance to intervene in a court case between their son-in-law and Governor Jeb Bush.
Judge W. Douglas Baird rejected the motion filed last Wednesday by the American Center for Law and Justice to allow Bob and Mary Schindler to be part of the lawsuit on the side of the governor.
"We're very disappointed with the court's ruling," said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ, in a statement. "It is clear that state law permits the parents to get directly involved in a case to defend a state law that is keeping their daughter alive. It is unfortunate that the court did not find that the parents have sufficient legal interest in defending the state's actions - actions that provide the only barrier between Terri and death by starvation."
"We are currently examining all legal options available - including an appeal - for our clients. We will do everything possible to ensure that the interests of Terri's parents are represented in this case."
Attorneys for Michael Schiavo, Terri's husband and guardian, had argued that the legal battle over "Terri's Law" is between their client and the governor and that the Schindlers should have no part in the case. Mr. Schiavo and the American Civil Liberties Union are suing the governor claiming he and the legislature overstepped their constitutional bounds when they passed the law last month because it overruled previous court decisions.
Governor Bush had championed and signed the law on October 21 which called for Terri's feeding tube to be reinstalled six days after it had been removed under court order.
Disability rights groups have been watching Terri's situation for a number of years. Mr. Schiavo and the popular media describe Terri as being "better off dead" because of her disability. A coalition of 14 disability rights groups released a statement last month calling on news sources to more accurately describe Terri's situation and focus on her human and civil rights. Bush pushed for the law after he received tens of thousands of messages from disability rights advocates and right-to-life supporters.
Terri sustained a brain injury at age 26 after she collapsed and was without oxygen for several minutes in February 1990. Shortly after her collapse, doctors described her as being in a "persistent vegetative state" from which she would not recover. Mr. Schiavo won a $1.2 million malpractice settlement in 1992 after promising to take care of his wife for the rest of his life.
A short time later, Mr. Schiavo removed Terri from a nursing home when it insisted he allow his wife to be given antibiotics for a potentially life-threatening infection. He put Terri on "do not resuscitate" status, and began placing limits on visits from her family members. Five years ago, he moved his wife to a hospice, which is ordinarily reserved for people with less than six months to live, even though doctors said she could live into her 50s. Schiavo began claiming that Terri told him before her collapse that she would not want to live "by artificial means".
According to Terri's parents, Mr. Schiavo stopped allowing rehabilitative therapies in 1993 and has since spent much of the settlement money in a legal battle to remove the feeding tube that provides Terri with food and water. The Schindlers also have asked the courts to remove him as Terri's guardian because he wants to marry another woman with whom he has conceived two children, and because he would gain what remains of the settlement money when Terri dies.
Terri's parents argue that Terri is responsive, alert and that she tries to talk to them. They also have presented testimony from four board certified neurologists, two board certified internists, one neuro-psychologist, and two speech pathologists stating that Terri is not in a persistent vegetative state. Three nurses who cared for Terri in the 1990s have signed affidavits saying she interacted with them. Nurses also said that Schiavo was verbally abusive to his wife.
Video clips on the family's website show Terri apparently smiling at her parents, following a balloon with her eyes, and responding negatively to unwanted stimuli -- all of which would indicate she is not in a persistent vegetative state.
"As we read through the reams of information about Terri's condition and history, and when we saw the video clip of her, many of us recognized ourselves," wrote columnist and advocate Michael Volkman this weekend. "When we consider how sensitive our own experiences have made us and the rampant prejudice against disability in American culture in general, and especially among many doctors, we see why Terri's life is in danger. We also see how these attitudes put all lives potentially at risk."
Columnist Wesley J. Smith attempted on Friday to explain why the press has distorted Terri's situation.
"The establishment media usually reflects the attitudes of society's elites, who do generally believe that people like Terri are better off dead. On the other hand, talk-radio and the Internet--what I call dissident media--generated the unprecedented outpouring of support for Terri's life that culminated in Terri's Law. Members of the establishment disdain dissident media and perceive it to be a threat."
A hearing on Terri's guardianship is set for Wednesday afternoon before Judge George W. Greer, who has consistently sided with Mr. Schiavo in the past.
"Schiavo is not better off dead than disabled" by Michael Volkman (Albany Times Union)
"Life, Death, and Silence" by Wesley J. Smith (Weekly Standard)
"Pro-Life Leader: Public Being Misled in Terri Schiavo Case" (Crosswalk)
"'Terri's Law' -- How It Passed" (St. Petersburg Times)
"Many recall Schiavo as fight plays out" (Philadelphia Inquirer)
"ACLJ Disappointed with Florida Court Decision" (American Center for Law and Justice)