Judge Refuses To Reinstate Independent Guardian For Terri
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 12, 2004
CLEARWATER, FLORIDA--An independent guardian for Terri Schiavo will not be reinstated as Governor Jeb Bush had requested.
Pinellas County Chief Judge David Demers on Friday turned down the governor's request to bring back University of South Florida Professor Jay Wolfson to advocate for Terri's rights. According to the Associated Press, Demers said he would not reappoint the guardian ad litem, and cited an appeal by Michael Schiavo over the constitutionality of the law that first allowed Wolfson to be appointed.
Wolfson was appointed temporary guardian as part of "Terri's Law", which the Florida legislature passed quickly on October 21. The measure was championed by Bush as a way to have Terri's feeding tube reinserted just six days after it had been removed under a court order sought by her husband. The law included a provision to have the independent guardian look into Terri's circumstances and to see if she could learn to swallow through rehabilitative therapies.
Wolfson told the governor on December 2 that Terri cannot recover from her disability, but that more tests need to be done before he would recommend removing the feeding tube. Demers dismissed Wolfson two weeks later, saying that he had completed the task assigned to him.
Bush then gave Demers a list of 10 areas he had wanted Wolfson to look into, but which he said were not investigated to his satisfaction. Among other things, the governor wanted the professor to look into what happened the night in February 1990 when Terri's heart stopped and her brain was without oxygen. Bush also wanted Wolfson to investigate statements made by Mr. Schiavo regarding her condition and how she was found, along with statements by law enforcement, emergency medical personnel and hospital staff where Terri was treated.
"Terri Schiavo yet again has been denied an independent voice in the proceedings that may very well determine the outcome of her life," the governor's office said in a statement Friday.
Disability rights advocates have been watching Terri's legal battle for several years. Her husband, who is also her guardian, and several doctors claim that she has been in a "persistent vegetative state" since her brain injury. The courts have supported Mr. Schiavo's claims that Terri cannot recover from her injury, that she does not feel pain, and that she would not have wanted to live "by artificial means".
Terri's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, believe that she is alert and responsive and that she could improve with therapies which Mr. Schiavo has denied her for at least the past 10 years. They claim that Terri's husband wants her to die so that he can marry another woman with whom he has fathered two children, and so he can benefit from what's left of an insurance settlement that now pays for her treatment. They want him removed as Terri's guardian and have pushed for an investigation into their allegations that he abused, neglected and financially exploited her. They also suspect that Michael may have caused Terri's initial collapse.
The Schindlers and advocates have defended Terri's right to live, noting that allowing her to die by starvation would reinforce the message that the lives of people with certain disabilities are not worth living. With their urging and that of right-to-life advocates, the governor championed "Terri's Law". The measure allowed the legislature to give Bush permission to order Terri's feeding tube reinserted and called for appointing the independent guardian to review her situation and provide the governor with recommendations.
Michael Schiavo, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, is suing the governor claiming that the new law violates Terri's right to privacy, and the state constitution's separation of powers provisions.
"Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)
Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation