Two Courts Refuse To Hear Appeals Over Keeping Terri Schiavo
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 23, 2004
TALLAHASSEE & CLEARWATER, FLORIDA--One year after Terri Schiavo's feeding tube was reinserted and her life was spared, two separate legal rulings have dealt what are at least temporary set-backs to those who support her right to continue living.
On Thursday, a year to the day after Terri's feeding tube was reinstalled under a legislative directive, the Florida Supreme Court ruled, without comment, that it would not hear an appeal by Governor Jeb Bush over it's September 23, 2004 decision.
The court had ruled that the Legislature violated the state Constitution's separation of powers when it gave Bush the authority to have Terri's feeding tube reinserted on October 22, 2003, just six days after it had been removed under a Pinellas County Circuit Court order.
Governor Bush said Friday that his office would appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. They have 15 days to do so. Bush said he might request a stay, which would keep Terri alive until, or if, the high court agrees to hear the case.
"I personally don't want to be a party to removing a feeding tube that causes us to take an innocent life," the governor said.
"On death row, it takes 20 years for the appeals process to end, and the state spends hundreds of thousands of dollars before it allows a convicted felon to be executed. I would hope that we would take as much care when it comes to an innocent life."
Also on Friday, in a separate case over Terri's life, Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge George W. Greer said that he would not hear an appeal by Terri's parents filed last month. Her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, had asked Greer to reconsider his 2000 decision in which he agreed with Michael Schiavo, Terri's husband and guardian, that Terri would not have wanted to live "by artificial means".
The Schindlers believe that Terri, 40, a life-long Catholic, would not have wanted to die by starvation at this point, because doing so would violate a recent pronouncement by Pope John Paul II. The pope said in March that letting people with severe disabilities die by starvation or dehydration amounted to euthanasia, and is both unethical and immoral.
Greer wrote in his ruling Friday that nothing had changed since his earlier decision. He noted that, before her collapse at age 26, Terri had not been a consistent observer of Mass and did not have a regular religious advisor to counsel her.
"There is nothing new presented regarding Terri Schiavo's religious attitude and there is still no religious adviser to assist this or any other court in weighing her desire to comply with this or any other papal pronouncement," Greer wrote.
Greer added however, that Terri's feeding tube could not be removed until December 6, so that her parents could have time to arrange an appeal to his decision.
The Schindlers indicated through their attorney that they would appeal Greer's ruling.
"The family's faith remains strong and they are hopeful that their daughter's life will ultimately be spared," the family said in a statement. "They covet the prayers of others who are concerned about Terri as they continue to pursue their legal options."
Terri collapsed in February 1990 from what doctors believed was a potassium imbalance, perhaps caused by an eating disorder. Her heart stopped beating, and her brain was without oxygen for several minutes. After she came out of a coma, doctors ruled that Terri was in a "persistent vegetative state", that her brain was damaged to the point that she was no longer aware of her surroundings, could not feel pain, and would not recover.
Terri regulates her own breathing and blood pressure. She does not swallow, but is given food and hydration through a tube installed through the wall of her stomach.
Her husband and guardian, Michael, filed a petition in 1998 to have Terri's feeding tube removed so that she would die of starvation and dehydration. He told the court that his wife told him before her collapse that she would not have wanted to live "by artificial means". The feeding tube was removed for two days in April 2001 and for six days in October 2003, before it was ordered reinserted while courts considered legal actions by her parents.
Terri's parents have challenged Michael Schiavo's efforts to have her feeding tube removed. They believe Terri responds to them, smiles, and has even tried to stand up. They want Terri to receive therapies that Mr. Schiavo has refused her for at least ten years, including speech and swallowing therapies.
They want Mr. Schiavo removed as Terri's legal guardian, pointing to the fact that he spent much of the fund intended for her care and rehabilitation on his fight to have her die, and that for the last several years he has been engaged to another woman with whom he has fathered two children.
Disability rights advocates and right-to-die groups flooded the offices of Gov. Bush and state lawmakers with messages asking for them to intervene and save Terri's life. Bush's office quickly wrote what would be commonly known as "Terri's Law" and championed it through the Legislature in near-record time, leading to the reinsertion of Terri's feeding tube.
Michael Schiavo appealed the action to the state Supreme Court, claiming the law violated Terri's right to privacy and the state constitution. The high court did not address the privacy concerns, but said the Governor and the Legislature overstepped their legal bounds in passing and implementing the law.
The Schindlers indicated that they are ready for the next round of legal actions.
"We are aggressively pursuing all the options with the ultimate goal of having Terri's life spared," their lead attorney, David Gibbs, told reporters. "[The Schindlers] were very pleased with the stay because it removed a cloud of fear and uncertainty. They can sleep well tonight and breathe a sigh of relief."
"Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)
"Terri Schiavo's Right To Live: Timeline" (Inclusion Daily Express)