Skip to comments.Terri's Law Support Contested
Posted on 11/04/2003 3:27:40 AM PST by amdgmary
CLEARWATER - Michael Schiavo is seeking to block a conservative advocacy group from defending the constitutionality of Terri's Law.
Bob and Mary Schindler do not have a legal interest in the controversial measure that allowed Gov. Jeb Bush to order that their daughter be kept alive, Schiavo attorney George Felos said Monday.
Michael Schiavo contends Terri's Law violates his wife's constitutional right to refuse medical treatment. He sued Gov. Jeb Bush and Attorney General Charlie Crist on Oct. 21, the day Terri's Law was passed.
That evening, Bush used the law to order that a feeding tube be reinserted into Terri Schiavo's stomach so she could be provided with liquid nutrition after almost a week without food or water.
The 39-year-old woman's feeding tube had been removed the week before on court orders. Terri's Law in effect granted the governor a one-time pass to ``stay'' the court order that Terri Schiavo be allowed to die.
Michael Schiavo contends that his wife, who has been in what his doctors term a persistent vegetative state since suffering unexplained heart failure in 1990, would not want to be kept alive with no hope of improvement.
The Schindlers say their daughter reacts to them and could improve with therapy. They have fought a 5 1/2-year battle to block their son-in- law's quest for permission to stop feeding his wife.
Last week, the Schindlers asked Circuit Judge Douglas Baird for permission to intervene in their son-in-law's lawsuit to help defend Terri's Law.
If he can block the Schindlers from intervening, Michael Schiavo will also keep the America Center for Law and Justice from entering the case as the newest member of the Schindlers' legal team.
The center, founded by the Rev. Pat Robertson, agreed last week to help represent the Schindlers after the American Civil Liberties Union lent its muscle to Michael Schiavo's legal team.
In an objection to the Schindlers' request filed Monday, Felos said the parents are hoping to use the narrow constitutionality issue to reopen years of litigation over the question of Terri Schiavo's wishes.
A trial court ruled almost four years ago that Terri Schiavo made statements prior to her illness indicating she would not want to be kept alive, Felos wrote. That ruling has been upheld repeatedly through 13 appeals, one as high as the U.S. Supreme Court, Felos wrote.
Terri's Law and ``the governor's actions directly and substantially affect Mrs. Schiavo's constitutional rights. The Schindlers' interest can best be described as an emotional interest, not a legal interest,'' the objection to their involvement states.
Schindler attorney Pat Anderson scoffed at that.
``The Schindlers have a very real interest in protecting their daughter's life,'' Anderson said. ``It is after all Terri's life that is at stake here.''
Felos said the Schindlers are free to file a friend-of-the- court brief outlining their concerns without joining the case as full-fledged litigants.
``What the Schindlers are trying to do ... is try and muck up the case procedurally'' to stall for more time, Felos said.
IF Terri couldn't feel pain then why did they dope her up with pain meds while they were trying to starve her to death?
Instead Terri has a tube right into her stomach. It is not painful, nor does it does not seem to cause problems for those who have them -- including a young lady I met at the vigil. If I remember right (since I did not see it myself), a speaker at the vigil -- the leader of "Not Dead Yet" -- showed hers to the crowd and said is no problem.
It amazes me that the ACLU and the FemiNazis are so anxious to murder Terri. You would think these organizations would support )respectively) basic human rights and a woman's right not to be murdered by her very questionable husband.
The records are sealed if this was a settlement (which it probably was). The parents have no access to any research done by the defense, which probably was unable to uncover much, since this was in the corrupt Florida courts.
There remain very serious questions however about this husband, his unsavory lawyer, the outrageous behavior of the ACLU, ad nauseum.
This is a very interesting case all around. The original allegation was that doctors failed to detect and treat a bulimia-induced potassium imbalance which led to a heart attack and brain damage.
Heart attack which stopped oxygen, and yet the heart has remained healthy all these years? Bulimia-induced?
I think the jury grasped at any excuse to spend someone else's money. And there's this business of medical charts indicating trauma.
The string of causation for the deprivation of oxygen is improble. Possible, but registers on the bs meter.
Think this case speaks to the corrupting influence of malpractice insurance abuse as much as a right-to-die/live controversy. As soon as Terri suffered, she became an Object of Desire, a cash cow, a treasure to be exploited both by husband and lawyers to milk an insurance company. Once exploited, everyone now tries to dispose of the evidence.
Check out this beautiful girl, Maria Tetto, who is also fed by gastrostomy tube.
Maria, like Terri, suffered brain damage and was in a coma; and her parents, like Terri's, were also told there was no hope for her recovery.
But thanks to aggressive therapy, today Maria can talk, joke, laugh, write a journal, and go to school:
11/03/03 - Posted 12:21:28 AM from the Daily Record newsroom
By Abbott Koloff, Daily Record
They talked to their daughter constantly, promising that if she came out of a coma they would allow her to get her ears pierced. They had argued about that before the accident. Now, they just wanted to make their daughter laugh.
Then, one day, three months after the accident, Frank Tetto playfully hit his wife, Alycea, over the head with a pillow.
Their daughter Maria, now 18, smiled.
Frank Tetto said doctors didn't believe at first that his daughter really smiled. The Tettos held their daughter's hand and she squeezed back. Doctors said that was a reflex rather than a sign of conscious behavior, said the Tettos, who live in Mount Olive.
"It wasn't just a personal goal to get her to smile," Frank Tetto said this past week. "It was to get her to smile and to have people witness it."
Eventually, Tetto said, they did, and doctors acknowledged their daughter had made some progress. Then hospital officials said that progress wasn't enough to keep her in the hospital, according to Tetto, and there was not much more they could do. He said an insurance company refused to pay for rehabilitative therapy, saying his daughter needed custodial care instead.
In one way, the Tettos' case is similar to one now going on in Florida, where a family has been divided over what to do about a woman, Terri Schiavo, who has been in a coma for 13 years. The Tettos said they had to convince doctors and insurance companies that their daughter would benefit from various kinds of therapy and come all the way out of a coma, and one day talk to them.
In Florida, a husband fought to have his wife's feeding tube removed against her parents' wishes. The courts ruled in his favor because the woman once said she'd rather die than be kept alive this way.
The Florida Legislature passed a law that allowed Gov. Jeb Bush to sign an executive order putting back the feeding tube. The parents have been saying that their daughter responds to them. Doctors appointed by the court say the woman is making reflexive responses.
The Tettos did not have to make a life or death decision about their daughter, who had run into a truck while in-line skating across Route 46 in 1998. Soon afterward, doctors performed a test to determine whether Maria Tetto was brain dead, and her father thought about what he would do if they came back with bad news.
"I would have wanted to give it six more months, at least," Frank Tetto said.
"I just would have needed the time. I would have thought that removing her respirator at that point was premature."
But doctors found brain activity, so the Tettos said there was no decision to make.
Maria Tetto now gets around in a motorized wheelchair. She speaks well enough to be understood. She tells jokes and laughs. She attends special-education classes at Mount Olive Middle School. She writes a daily journal in a computer so she will remember what happened to her the day before. She doesn't remember the accident, but she does know that it happened on March 2, 1998. She also knows she was in a coma.
"I was absent," she said.
[snip} Making a choice
Frank Tetto says he understands why Schiavo's parents have fought to keep her alive. He says he knows what it's like to hope for miracles. He describes a constant battle with Prudential, an insurance company since bought out by Aetna, to provide treatment for his daughter. Prudential, he said, responded that his daughter was beyond rehabilitation.
"Their argument was that her care was custodial," Frank Tetto said.
Prudential, in a 1999 statement issued to the media, said it paid all claims covered by the Tettos' policy. But in 1998, the debate was not about what was covered. It was about what kind of treatment Maria Tetto should receive.
The insurance company told the Tettos in an April 1998 letter, five weeks after the accident, that their daughter did not need rehabilitative therapy. It said her treatment would be custodial, and that wasn't covered. Doctors at Specialized Children's Hospital in Mountainside, where Maria Tetto was taken after a month at Morristown Memorial, responded in a June 24 letter to Prudential that she should get therapy.
"To determine after five weeks that a child's needs are custodial contraindicates all research and experience," K. Yalamanchi, the attending physician, said in the letter.
The doctor went on to say that patients with similar injuries continue to improve for a year.
Appeal after appeal
Maria Tetto was described in medical records as being in a coma in April 1998, when she made only nonspecific responses to various kinds of stimulation. Two months later, the Tettos say she smiled for the first time. Doctors eventually agreed that Maria Tetto had made some progress, Frank Tetto said, but at some point hospital officials told him that she was not going to get much more benefit from therapy. They told the Tettos, in a letter, that their daughter was going to be discharged Aug. 21, 1998.
"I went ballistic," Tetto said.
He filed one appeal, and then another, delaying the discharge for months. He said some doctors and nurses at the hospital encouraged him to keep fighting.
Meanwhile, according to letters from the insurance company, Prudential agreed to pay for a portion of Maria Tetto's hospital stay, which it previously said would not be covered. A spokeswoman for Children's Specialized Hospital said last week that the case records were not available, and officials could not comment on it.
When Maria Tetto was released in December 1998, she still could not talk, according to her father, but she was able to follow directions. She could turn her head when asked. She was sent to a residential school and hospital, coming home on weekends. She gradually became more responsive and now lives at home. She says that her first words were similar to what she might have said as a baby: "Mama and papa."
The Tettos say they have no more problems with insurance. They say perhaps it's because they spent so much time fighting, threatening to go to the media, filing appeal after appeal, until they eventually were given much of what they say they needed.
"I think they red-flagged our file," Alycea Tetto said.
Therapy and drugs
So the Tettos say they have been able to try various types of therapy. They have been able to try drugs that they say have helped unclench their daughter's right hand, so that she can use it for writing. They have tried a special mechanism that blows air into their daughter's mouth that they say helps her to speak more clearly.
They said insurance paid for Maria Tetto's $25,000 motorized wheelchair, which can extend to put her in a standing position. Her leg muscles are fine, her parents said, and she has feeling in her legs, but is unable to stay balanced. She has trouble swallowing fluids, so she still has a feeding tube attached to her stomach. She has no short-term memory.
"She will forget you were here by tomorrow," Frank Tetto said to a visitor.
That's why Maria Tetto writes in her journal. She said that she wants to remember little things that happen to her during the day. She writes about things any teenager might be concerned about -- how people loved her new hairstyle, an orthodontist's appointment, hitting a gym teacher accidentally with a basketball. She had been in the school choir before the accident and still loves to sing. One day, not long ago, she said she sang "Silent Night" in front of her classmates.
"Want to hear?" she asked.
She sang it without missing a word. Then she turned her head to show off her earrings.
published in The Daily Record (Parsippany, NJ)
The typical legend you hear is "the doc only gave me a month to live, and five years later I'm fine!"
Probably the doctor spelled out several scenarios, and the listener picked the worst one, one that he could resent , in public, later.
Thanks for the amazing info, as well as your poetic eloquence!