Skip to Full Menu

Providing information, education, and training to build knowledge, develop skills, and change attitudes that will lead to increased independence, productivity, self determination, integration and inclusion (IPSII) for people with developmental disabilities and their families.

Gov. Bush Asks Court To Throw Out Challenge To "Terri's Law";
Judge Greer Allows Parents To Sue For Guardianship Change

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 5, 2003

TAMPA, FLORIDA--An attorney representing Governor Jeb Bush has asked a state court to dismiss a lawsuit challenging "Terri's Law", the measure passed last month that gave Bush authority to order a feeding tube reinserted into Terri Schiavo.

Ken Connor told Florida's 6th District Court Wednesday that the suit filed against the governor by Terri's husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo, and the American Civil Liberties Union, should have been filed in Leon County, where the state capital is located rather than Pinellas County. Connor also said the governor was not properly served notice of the suit, thereby making the suit invalid.

The suit filed last week claimed that the governor and the legislature overstepped their constitutional bounds when they passed the law giving Bush authority to have Terri's feeding tube replaced on October 21, six days after it had been removed by a court order.

"This is about safeguarding the fundamental right to live for every Floridian, particularly those with disabilities," Bush said in a statement. "Both the U.S. and Florida constitutions secure this right, and elected officials in our state are required to protect it."

Judge Douglas Baird has yet to rule on the matter.

Also on Wednesday, Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge George W. Greer ruled against Mr. Schiavo's request to throw out a suit from Terri's parents seeking to have him removed as her guardian. Judge Greer, who has rejected such efforts three times in the past, had consistently sided with Mr. Schiavo for several years.

Terri collapsed and her brain was without oxygen for several minutes in February 1990 when she was 26. Several doctors have testified that she has since been in a "persistent vegetative state" in which she feels nothing and from which she will never recover. Her husband claims that Terri told him before her collapse that she would not have wanted to live "by artificial means". Based on this testimony, Florida courts have consistently sided with Mr. Schiavo's efforts to have the gastronomy tube removed that provides Terri with food and water.

Terri's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, have argued for years that Terri is alert, responsive, and that she tries to speak. They have gathered testimony from medical professionals who claim that Terri is not "vegetative" and that she might benefit from rehabilitation. Videos of Terri from last year show her apparently smiling, interacting with family members, and watching a balloon cross her room.

In their suit, the Schindlers claim that Mr. Schiavo has neglected and abused Terri since winning a $1.2 million insurance settlement two years after her brain injury.

"Schiavo has at every turn attempted to increase her incapacity through the denial of basic health and rehabilitative services such as range of motion therapy, other physical therapy, orthopedic evaluations and treatment, speech therapy, standard diagnostic tests and procedures, gynecological care, dental care, rehabilitation evaluations and cognitive therapy," the petition stated.

Of the $700,000 that was held in a fund for Terri's life-long care in 1998, only $50,000 remains. The Schindlers allege Mr. Schiavo has exploited Terri by "wasting, embezzlement, or other mismanagement" much of the money by spending it on attorneys' fees in his efforts to starve her to death.

The Schindlers also say their daughter deserves a divorce from her husband, who for the past six years has been living with another woman -- whom he refers to as his fiancée and with whom he has fathered two children.

"Fidelity is a key component of the respect and dignity that our society expects one spouse to afford the other; yet, this guardian believes that Terri’s disability releases him of his legal and moral responsibility."

The suit further suggests that Mr. Schiavo may have been responsible for Terri's initial collapse.

The Schindlers want Judge Greer to appoint her brother or sister as guardian.

Disability rights groups have been closely watching the Schiavo case for several years. Last month they joined right-to-life groups to flood the governor's office with tens of thousands of messages urging him to support Terri's right to live. The week after Terri's feeding tube was removed by court order, Gov. Bush championed the passage of "Terri's law" in the state legislature, allowing him to have it reinstalled.

"Who's going to debate whether my life is worth living?" asked Angel Watson, who 15 years ago was declared in a "persistent vegetative state". Watson is now the accessibility coordinator with the Caring and Sharing Center for Independent Living in Largo.

"What are you going to do to us next? Put us on an island? Blow us up?" she asked the Tampa Tribune.

"The Guardian: Terri Schiavo's first guardian ad litem report 1998" by Wesley J. Smith (Weekly Standard)
"Many In Disability Groups Want Protection For Schiavo" (Tampa Tribune)
"Court to hear petition to remove husband as guardian" (World Net Daily)
Extended coverage: "Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express)
Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation


©2018 The Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities
 370 Centennial Office Building  658 Cedar Street   St. Paul, Minnesota 55155 
Phone: 651.296.4018   Toll-free number: 877.348.0505   MN Relay Service: 800.627.3529 OR 711   Fax: 651.297.7200 
Email:   View Privacy Policy   An Equal Opportunity Employer 

The GCDD is funded under the provisions of P.L. 106-402. The federal law also provides funding to the Minnesota Disability Law Center,the state Protection and Advocacy System, and to the Institute on Community Integration, the state University Center for Excellence. The Minnesota network of programs works to increase the IPSII of people with developmental disabilities and families into community life.