Judge Greer Sets New Date For Feeding Tube Removal
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 25, 2005
CLEARWATER, FLORIDA--Friday afternoon, Pinellas County Circuit Judge George Greer said he was "no longer comfortable" issuing any more stays in the court battle over Terri Schiavo's life, and set March 18 as the day her husband is to have her feeding tube removed.
Greer thereby rejected a motion by Terri's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, who wanted a 60-day delay to argue that their daughter's Constitutional rights to due process have been violated, that her condition should be reassessed with new technology, and that her husband should be removed as her legal guardian.
"Five years have passed since the issuance of the February 2000 order authorizing the removal of Theresa Schiavo's nutrition and hydration and there appears to be no finality in sight to the process," Greer wrote in a three-page decision. "The Court, therefore, is no longer comfortable in continuing to grant stays pending appeal of orders denying Respondents' various motions and petitions."
"The process does not work when the trial court finds a motion to be without merit but then stays the effect of such denial for months pending appellate review," Greer continued. "Also, the Court is no longer comfortable granting stays simply upon the filing of new motions and petitions since there will always be 'new' issues that can be pled. The Respondents will need to demonstrate before the appellate courts that their requests have merit and accordingly are worthy of a stay."
Greer said he set the date three weeks from now to give Terri's family time to appeal his decision to a higher court and for Terri, who is Catholic, to receive last rites.
Supporters on both sides of the case applauded Greer's decision. Her parents called it a temporary relief, but not a victory. Her husband's attorney said he was pleased Greer recognized the need to end the case.
Greer mentioned briefly that Florida's Department of Children and Families had asked to intervene in the case. He did not indicate that the agency plans to investigate claims that Terri has been abused by her husband.
Greer's ruling came 15 years to the day that Terri's brain was damaged after she collapsed and stopped breathing for several minutes. She breathes on her own today, but receives her food and water through a tube installed through the wall of her stomach.
Her husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo, petitioned the court in 1998 to have Terri's feeding tube removed so she would die of starvation and dehydration. He and his doctors convinced the court that she is in a "persistent vegetative state", that she is not aware of her surroundings, and that she will not recover. He also claimed that she told him before her brain injury that she would not want to live "by artificial means".
Terri's parents have argued that she is aware, that she responds to them, and that she would improve through therapies that her husband has refused to allow. They also claim that Terri would not have wanted to go against last year's pronouncement by Pope John Paul II that allowing people to die by dehydration and starvation is morally wrong.
The Schindlers want Terri's condition evaluated by new technology that could reveal that she is alert and mentally active, and they want Mr. Schiavo removed as Terri's guardian, in part because he is engaged to a woman with whom he has fathered two children.
Claims that Terri's husband abused her before and after her injury have come up in the past. An investigation by the Pinellas State Attorney's office found no evidence of abuse in her medical records. Another by the Advocacy Center for Persons with Disabilities was stalled when the federally-mandated agency was unable to get permission -- from her husband -- to examine Terri.
Several disability rights groups have been supporting Terri's family in their efforts to spare her life. They are concerned that allowing Terri to die by starvation would reinforce a strong societal view that the lives of people with certain disabilities are "not worth living".
On Thursday, Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, reminded listeners on Vatican radio that the pope has confirmed that "the quality of life is not interpreted as economic success, beauty and physical pleasure, but consists in the supreme dignity of the creature made in the image and likeness of God."
"If Mr. Schiavo succeeds legally in causing the death of his wife, this not only would be tragic in itself, but would be a grave step toward the legal approval of euthanasia in the United States," the Cardinal said.
If Terri's feeding tube is removed, it will be for the third time since 2000.
"Schiavo Parents Plan More Legal Activity" (Associated Press)
"Judge Recusal Demanded By University Of Florida Students" (Empire Journal)
"Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)