Florida High Court Drops Stay In Terri Schiavo Case
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 1, 2004
TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA--Florida's Supreme Court lifted a stay Tuesday that had it had issued in late October for Governor Jeb Bush to appeal its decision regarding the law that has kept Terri Schiavo alive for the past year.
A spokesman for the governor said that Bush does plan to appeal the state Supreme Court's ruling, which had found "Terri's Law" unconstitutional, to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The decision to lift the stay does not mean that Terri's feeding tube will be removed any time soon, however. That's because Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge George Greer granted a separate stay on October 29 which will allow Terri to continue receiving food and water through the tube until her parents' appeals have been exhausted. The appeal process could take months or possibly years.
The state court had ruled in September that Bush was wrong to champion the measure under which the Legislature gave him authority in October 2003 to override her husband's wishes to have Terri starve and dehydrate to death. The court ruled that the law violated Florida's Constitution by giving the governor and Legislature illegal power over the judicial system.
Terri collapsed from a heart attack in February 1990 and her brain was without oxygen for several minutes. She breathes on her own and regulates her own blood pressure. But because she does not swallow, she receives food and water through a tube installed through the wall of her stomach.
In February 2000, Judge Greer ruled that Mr. Schiavo could have his wife's feeding tube removed. Greer agreed with Schiavo and several doctors that Terri is in a "persistent vegetative state" -- that her brain is damaged the point where she cannot interact with her environment, does not feel pain, and will not recover -- and that she would not have wanted to live "by artificial means".
Terri's parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, have fought Mr. Schiavo through the courts for the past 11 years for their daughter to receive rehabilitative therapies, including speech and swallowing therapies, and to keep her alive. They argue that Terri responds to them, smiles, and has even tried to stand up.
The Schindlers believe that Terri, 40, a life-long Catholic, would not have wanted to die by starvation, 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.
In late October, Judge Greer said that nothing had changed since his 2000 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. Greer did issue the stay giving the Schindlers time to appeal his ruling.
The Schindlers have tried to get Mr. Schiavo removed as Terri's legal guardian, pointing to the fact that he spent much of a fund intended for her care and rehabilitation on his fight to have her die, and that for the last seven years he has been engaged to another woman with whom he has fathered two children.
Last October, when Terri's feeding tube was removed under Greer's court order, 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 "Terri's Law" and pushed it through the Legislature in near-record time, leading to the reinsertion of Terri's feeding tube just six days after it had been removed.
Mr. Schiavo appealed that 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.
"Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)