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Terri Schiavo Family Can Have Unsupervised Visit, Judge Greer Rules
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 27, 2004

CLEARWATER, FLORIDA--A judge has cleared the way for Terri Schiavo's family will be able to visit her this Saturday without having to hire extra security to do so.

Despite objections from Terri's husband, Pinellas County Circuit Judge George Greer said her parents, Mary and Bob Schindler, and her brother and sister could have a 1 1/2 hour unsupervised visit.

Last Sunday, the family was able to see her for the first time since March 29, when her husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo, banned them from Terri's nursing home room after a staff member found what appeared to be puncture marks on her arms. Mr. Schiavo prohibited the family from seeing her, claiming that he suspected they tried to inject her with something. Police later determined that there was no foul play, that the marks were likely caused by an apparatus used to transfer Terri to and from her bed, and that there was nothing unusual in her bloodstream.

Two weeks ago, Mr. Schiavo said his in-laws could spend time with his wife, but only if they paid for an extra security guard to monitor their visit.

The Schindlers took him to court last week to have unsupervised visits. According to the Associated Press and other news sources, Greer said he would decide sometime next week whether any future visitations should be supervised.

"The fact that we get back to see her makes us happy," Bob Schindler said after the hearing.

Terri, 40, breathes on her own, but is given food and water through a tube installed through the wall of her stomach. Her husband and several doctors claim that she has been in a "persistent vegetative state" since she collapsed and her brain was without oxygen for several minutes in February 1990. The courts have consistently supported Mr. Schiavo's claims that Terri cannot recover from her brain injury, that she does not feel pain, and that she would not have wanted to live "by artificial means".

Terri's parents believe that she is alert and responsive and that she could improve through therapies which Mr. Schiavo has denied her for at least the past 10 years. They have claimed that Terri's husband wants her to die so that he can marry a woman with whom he has fathered two children. The Schindlers want him removed as Terri's guardian and have pushed for an investigation into their allegations that he has 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. Under pressure from disability rights and right-to-life advocates, Governor Bush championed "Terri's Law" rapidly through the Legislature, giving him permission to order Terri's feeding tube reinserted six days after it had been removed on October 16, 2003.

Earlier this month, the Pinellas Circuit Court upheld Mr. Schiavo's challenge to the law, which claimed it violated Terri's right to privacy and the Florida Constitution's separation of powers provisions. The Florida 2nd District Court of Appeal has since asked that Bush's appeal be moved quickly to the state Supreme Court.

On Tuesday, Steven J. Taylor, Ph.D. the director of the Center on Human Policy at Syracuse University, wrote an opinion piece on Terri's situation for the Post-Standard.

"No one -- especially a husband with an inherent conflict of interest - should be able to decide to withhold routine care, food and water from a person who is not dying and who has not unambiguously expressed his or her desires," wrote Dr. Taylor, who is the editor of the journal 'Mental Retardation'. "To permit substitute decision-makers to make such life-and-death choices would place thousands of people with disabilities in extreme jeopardy."

"Betraying Terri Schiavo; Disability is not a reason to die" (Post-Standard)


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