Skip to comments.Schiavo case nears decision - maybe
Posted on 02/23/2005 6:33:21 AM PST by amdgmary
A court rules that a feeding tube can be removed, a judge orders a stay, and the legal struggle continues.
WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE, CHRIS TISCH and LAUREN BAYNE ANDERSON
Published February 23, 2005
PINELLAS PARK - The seven-year legal battle over the fate of Terri Schiavo reaches a critical and familiar juncture today leading either to the end of her life or more legal maneuvers to sustain it.
Just days before the 15th anniversary of their daughter's collapse, Bob and Mary Schindler are once again asking a judge today to stop Michael Schiavo from ordering his wife's feeding tube to be removed so they can explore further appeals.
A judge's order barring the tube's removal expires at 5 p.m. today, opening the possibility that feeding will be stopped for the third time since 2001.
On Tuesday, the case hit the latest in a long series of legal standoffs.
First, an appeals court released an order that seemingly cleared the way for Schiavo's husband to order that his wife's feeding tube be removed. But less than an hour later, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge George Greer issued a second order stopping him at least until Greer hears argument today about whether to grant a further stay.
Without the food and water the tube brings, Schiavo is expected to die within two weeks.
Lawyers on both sides of this bitter and protracted legal battle agree that the case is at an important crossroads.
"Tomorrow is a huge day," attorney David Gibbs III, who represents Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, told reporters Tuesday.
George Felos, a lawyer representing Michael Schiavo said, "We're hopeful the courts will finally come to the point of saying, "No more delay.' "
Among the pending legal issues is a challenge to remove Schiavo as his wife's guardian, though Felos said a new guardian also would be forced to carry out court orders to end his wife's life.
In addition, Gibbs said he also plans to file a motion to seek further neurological testing to show Terri Schiavo may be in a minimally conscious state and could benefit from therapy, and not in the persistent vegetative state some doctors have diagnosed.
But Felos said she has no cognitive ability and has no chance to recover.
Tuesday started as have so many days in this complex legal contest - with protests, competing news conferences, last-minute court orders and the shadow of uncertainty hanging over everything.
Protesters stood outside Michael Schiavo's Clearwater home early in the morning as police watched nearby. Up to 50 people also protested outside the hospice in Pinellas Park where Terri Schiavo lives, holding signs saying "Thou Shalt Not Kill" or "Let Terri Live."
Matthew Irwin, 24, a student at the University of Florida went to the protest with his mother.
"We're here to pray for Gov. Bush to intervene like last time," he said. "He has the constitutional power and the ability to give Terri life today."
At 1 p.m. Tuesday, the 2nd District Court of Appeal issued a mandate, essentially finalizing an earlier unsuccessful appeal by the Schindlers. Some thought the court would spell out instructions on when the feeding tube could be pulled, which could have delayed the act for weeks.
About 11 a.m., Terri Schiavo's father, Bob Schindler, told protesters outside the hospice: "I don't have much to say except we are begging and pleading for the Legislature and Gov. Bush to save Terri from being murdered in cold blood."
Upon its release, the district court order offered no instructions on when the feeding tube could be removed. In such an event, Felos had promised that his client would seek to end life-support immediately.
But about 1:45 p.m., Greer issued an order preventing the removal of the feeding tube that has kept Schiavo, 41, alive since her collapse Feb. 25, 1990, from a suspected chemical imbalance, which stopped her heart and severely damaged her brain.
Felos refused to say if anyone took steps to remove Schiavo's feeding tube before the stay was issued, but Gibbs said it wasn't touched.
Gibbs said the Schindlers were thrilled at Greer's temporary order. He said, "They believe once again that God has answered their prayers."
The Schindlers' lawyers will ask Greer at a hearing today to extend his stay. If Greer doesn't, Felos told reporters that his client will again have health care professionals remove the feeding tube.
"As soon as he is legally authorized, he will discontinue artificial life support," Felos told reporters at a news conference.
Unlike 2003, when state lawmakers and Bush stepped in and forced doctors to reinsert Schiavo's feeding tube - a move later overturned on appeal - Felos doesn't think lawmakers have any options left.
"There is nothing they can do to overturn the final judgment of the court in this case," he said. "I think legislators know that, their staff people know that and the governor knows that."
Bush spokesman Jacob DiPietre said, "The governor remains concerned. He has never stopped looking for ways to help Terri" within the law.
House Speaker Allan Bense, R-Panama City, said in a statement the Legislature would help Schiavo if it could. But he said they "have not yet identified an appropriate action, in addition to those we've already taken, that would be helpful."
Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, who has been asked by the Schindlers to organize protests on their daughter's behalf, expressed hope Tuesday that state lawmakers could intervene.
Terry said he wanted Bush to use the Department of Children & Families to take over Terri Schiavo's guardianship. He would also seek a bill that would remove a spouse from guardianship if he or she lives with someone else. Michael Schiavo now lives with a girlfriend and their children.
By day's end Tuesday, few were willing to predict how Greer will rule today, though the stakes have seldom been higher. Terri Schiavo left no living will, leaving Greer to decide after a trial in 2000 what her wishes would have been based on statements she made before her collapse.
If Greer doesn't extend the stay, Gibbs said he will appeal to the 2nd District Court of Appeal, then to the U.S. Supreme Court. Gibbs also said he will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review a previous motion that statements by the pope that people in vegetative states have the right to food and water.
His argument is that Schiavo, as a devout Catholic, wouldn't want anything done to her that goes against the pope's wishes. Greer previously rejected that argument, and the district court affirmed him, leading to Tuesday's mandate.
"We have to go everywhere we possibly can to protect the life of Terri Schiavo," Gibbs said.
Felos said Michael Schiavo won't back down or accept any last-minute compromise.
"The fact is he's not going to walk away because he is resolute in carrying out what her wishes are," Felos said.
- Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
Q&A: TODAY'S SCHIAVO HEARING What happened Tuesday?
The 2nd District Court of Appeal issued a one-page mandate essentially finalizing an earlier unsuccessful appeal by Terri Schiavo's parents. The appeal used a declaration by Pope John Paul II saying people in vegetative states have the right to food and water to argue Schiavo, as a devout Catholic, would not want anything done to her in violation of the pope's words. What did the Pinellas-Pasco judge do in response to that order?
With Schiavo's husband threatening to order doctors to remove her feeding tube as soon as the 2nd DCA's mandate was official, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge George Greer issued a stay stopping him until at least 5 p.m. today.
What happens today?
Greer will hear arguments at 2:45 p.m. about whether he should extend that stay to give Schiavo's parents time to explore further appeals.
Will the tube be removed, and if so when?
It's impossible to say and even lawyers involved won't predict. It could happen as soon as today, or Greer could delay the tube's removal indefinitely.
If the feeding tube is removed from Terri Schiavo, how long will she live?
Generally a person lives a week or two once the tube is removed before dying from dehydration. It could be as little as 48 hours or as long as three weeks.
But, if my earthen vessel (body) should ever become truly vegetative, I couldn't care less. Feel free to refer to it that way. By definition, there won't be any life remaining in it for anyone to hate, because my soul will have already left the scene. Life-haters, "glob" away! ;O)
Do note that when I said "truly vegetative" I meant without a soul.
I take it you believe it is improper for a Christian to have a "living will" which precludes the use of a respirator. Of course, none of our artificial means can prevent the sovereign God from taking a soul to heaven. Whether that means (1) we're obligated to keep the body living by any and all means at our disposal and/or (2) God will stop the heart from beating at the moment when He takes the soul, would seem to be open to debate. I certainly don't claim to have the answers.
I am not necessarily opposed to a living will - though I think, without a special document, it is much more likely that a person will be killed against their better judement than "forced to live" against their better judgement. I say better judgement because people may often say "I wouldn't want to live that way" not knowing how little suffering being on a respirator takes place and how often people survive after being put on a respirator. There is vast ignorance in the public about end-of-death situations.
There is also a "will to live" document available. The best approach for most people who don't want to be starved to death is to appoint someone you trust as your legal guardian (of course, this as in the Schiavo case could be fraught with difficulties).
bah-bull-thumpers scare me.
Bible-haters ought to scare themselves.