Skip to comments.Legal Refuge Congress aims to protect Terri Schiavo.
Posted on 03/16/2005 2:11:21 PM PST by paltz
In 1990, at the age of 27, Terri Schiavo collapsed, resulting in brain damage from a lack of oxygen. A feeding tube was inserted by doctors at that time to provide nutrition and hydration to keep her alive.
Over the last 15 years, there has been a protracted legal fight between Terris parents, who insist that Teri wants to live and want guardianship of their daughter, and Terris husband, who insists Terri wants to die and currently has guardianship. It has without a doubt been an emotional and drawn-out legal battle over what Terris wishes truly were and whether or not her feeding tube should be removed.
Terri is severely brain-damaged of that there is no question. However, many media reports have indicated that she is in a persistent vegetative state. There is evidence to the contrary.
She is not on a respirator or other 24-hour-a-day medical equipment. She responds to voices, touch, and the presence of people. She can smile, cry, and establish eye contact. She can make facial expressions. And several of Terris caregivers and outside medical professionals feel that, with proper therapy, she may even be able to learn to eat without a feeding tube.
For years, this legal battle between Terris parents and her husband has made its way through Floridas courts, Floridas legislature and Floridas governors office. All legal options available in the state of Florida have been exhausted and the Schiavo case has culminated with a final court-ordered removal of the feeding tube and cessation of nutrition and hydration on March 18 this Friday.
Last week, I introduced my first piece of legislation in the Senate: The Incapacitated Persons Legal Protection Act of 2005. This bill would ensure that incapacitated individuals like Terri Schiavo would have their due-process rights of habeas corpus when a court orders their death by removal of nutrition, hydration and medical treatment. My colleague from Florida, Congressman Dave Weldon has introduced identical legislation in the House of Representatives.
Habeas Corpus refers to the legal rights available under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution that No State shall deprive any person of life without due process of law nor to deny any person within its jurisdiction equal protections of the laws.
In essence, this legislation would give incapacitated individuals like Terri, who have been given what amounts to a death sentence by the courts, federal habeas corpus protections to ensure that she receives the same due process protections as convicted murderers given the death penalty.
This bill is very narrowly written and a balanced approach to acknowledging the rights of individuals to refuse consent to medical treatment with the right to consent to treatment to preserve life. The Incapacitated Persons Legal Protection Act would only apply when the following criteria are met:
There is a contested judicial proceeding because of a dispute about the expressed previous wishes or best interest of a person currently incapable of making a choice about lifesaving treatment;
There is no valid prior written directive on wishes from the now-incapacitated individual; and
There is a court order authorizing or directing the withholding of food, fluids, or medical treatment to sustain the individuals life.
This is not a right-to-life or right-to-die issue it is about proper legal representation for individuals with no voice for themselves. Its about giving a last avenue of legal refuge to disabled individuals when their lives hang in the balance.
This is a narrowly tailored, compassionate piece of legislation to ensure that Terri Schiavo has all legal due process available to her before following through on a court order that, in all seriousness, is a death sentence.
Before you click onto another screen or go back to work, please contact your senators and contact your congressman to let them know that you support this bill that Terri Schiavo deserves the same rights as criminals to equal protection under the law.
Mel Martinez is a freshman Republican senator from Florida.
I am listening to Sen. Martinez on Hannity right now and he says that even Sens. Harkin, and Lieberman are on board to help get Terri's bill passed and he is optomistic about it!!!
I would argue that this is NOT AT ALL about what Terri's wishes are or were-but about Michael's.
"She responds to voices, touch, and the presence of people. She can smile, cry, and establish eye contact. She can make facial expressions. And several of Terris caregivers and outside medical professionals feel that, with proper therapy, she may even be able to learn to eat without a feeding tube."
If this is the case, then someone must be able to communicate with her regarding her will to live.
Or, is it a legal issue, as if a caregiver or a family member is prohibited from asking her if she wants to live because her awareness of the question might affect her psychological state? Or that the caregiver might become personally liable for negative consequences? Or is her opinion not important because if she wants to die the caregivers are not allowed to assist her suicide?
Does she have an advance care directive? Has she been classified as being mentally incompetent to make decisions for her own health care?
I'm wondering how her case could affect similar cases in other states (I'm in CA), or how it might even affect DISsimilar cases...
She has no ACD, but I believe she is incompetent. The law being considered in Fl would make it illegal to remove feeding tubes based on hearsay, which is what the husband is basing his case on. He said she told him once while they were watching a television program on euthanazia that she wouldn't want to be kept alive that way.
The law would be retroactive.
I'm glad to see Mel Martinez has introduced this bill. Before he was elected there was some discussion here whether he would really be pro-life. This is a great sign that he's out front on this issue.
I just pray that they can get it pushed through before the 18th! Bless them for being heroes (Martinez and Lieberman)! Michael Schiavo--may you rot--and may you not get that money you think you are gonna get for killing this innocent person!
A Visit With Terri Schiavo
Attorney Barbara Weller
This past Christmas Eve day, 2004, I went to visit Terri Schiavo with her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, her sister, her niece, and Attorney David Gibbs III. The visit took place at the Woodside Hospice for about 45 minutes just before noon.
When I knew I was going to visit Terri with her parents, I had no idea what to expect. I was prepared for the possibility that the Schindlers love their daughter and sister so much that they might imagine behaviors by Terri that aren't actually evident to others. The media and Mr. Schiavo clearly give the impression that Terri is in a coma or comatose state and engages only in non-purposeful and reflexive movements and responses. I am a mother and a grandmother, as well as one of the Schindlers attorneys, and I could understand how parents might imagine behavior and purposeful activity that is not really there. I was prepared to be as objective as I could be during this visit and not to be disappointed at anything I saw or experienced.
I was truly surprised at what I saw from the moment we entered the little room where Terri is confined. The room is a little wider than the width of two single beds and about as long as the average bedroom, with plenty of room for us to stand at the foot of her bed. Terri is on the first floor and there is a lovely view to the outside grounds of the facility. The room is entered by a short hallway, however, and there is no way for Terri to see out into the hallway or for anyone in the hallway to observe Terri.
From the moment we entered the room, my impression was that Terri was very purposeful and interactive and she seemed very curious about the presence of obvious strangers in her room. Terri was not in bed, but was in her chair, which has a lounge chair appearance and elevates her head at about a 30-degree angle. She was dressed and washed, her hair combed, and she was covered with a holiday blanket. There were no tubes of any kind attached to her body. She was completely free of any restraints that would have indicated any type of artificial life support. Not even her feeding tube was attached and functioning when we entered, as she is not fed 24 hours a day.
The thing that surprised me the most about Terri as I took my turn to greet her by the side of her chair was how beautiful she is. I would have expected to see someone with a sallow and gray complexion and a sick looking countenance. Instead, I saw a very pretty woman with a peaches and cream complexion and a lovely smile, which she even politely extended to me as I introduced myself to her. I was amazed that someone who had not been outside for so many years and who received such minimal health care could look so beautiful. She appeared to have an inner light radiating from her face. I was truly taken aback by her beauty, particularly under the adverse circumstances in which she has found herself for so many years.
Terris parents, sister, and niece went immediately to greet Terri when we entered the room and stood in turn directly beside her head, stroking her face, kissing her and talking quietly with her. When she heard their voices, and particularly her mother's voice, Terri instantly turned her head towards them and smiled. Terri established eye contact with her family, particularly with her mother, who spent the most time with her during our visit. It was obvious that she recognized the voices in the room with the exception of one. Although her mother was talking to her at the time, she obviously had heard a new voice and exhibited a curious demeanor. Attorney Gibbs was having a conversation near the door with Terris sister. His voice is very deep and resonant and Terri obviously picked it up. Her eyes widened as if to say, Whats that new sound I hear? She scanned the room with her eyes, even turning her head in his direction, until she found Attorney Gibbs and the location of the new voice and her eyes rested momentarily in his direction. She then returned to interacting with her mother.
When her mother was close to her, Terris whole face lit up. She smiled. She looked directly at her mother and she made all sorts of happy sounds. When her mother talked to her, Terri was quiet and obviously listening. When she stopped, Terri started vocalizing. The vocalizations seemed to be a pattern, not merely random or reflexive at all. There is definitely a pattern of Terri having a conversation with her mother as best she can manage. Initially, she used the vocalization of uhuh but without seeming to mean it as a way of saying no, just as a repeated speech pattern. She then began to make purposeful grunts in response to her mothers conversation. She made the same sorts of sound with her father and sister, but not to the same extent or as delightedly as with her mother. She made no verbal response to her niece or to Attorney Gibbs and myself, but she did appear to pay attention to our words to her.
The whole experience was rather moving. Terri definitely has a personality. Her whole demeanor definitely changes when her mother speaks with her. She lights up and appears to be delighted at the interaction. She has an entirely different reaction to her father who jokes with her and has several standing jokes that he uses when he enters and exits her presence. She appears to merely tolerate her father, as a child does when she says stop but really means, this is fun. When her father greets her, he always does the same thing. He says, here comes the hug and hugs her. He then says, you know whats coming next---the kiss. Her father has a scratchy mustache and both times when he went through this little joke routine with her, she laughed in a way she did not do with anyone else. When her father is ready to plant the kiss on her cheek, she immediately makes a face her family calls the lemon face. She puckers her lips, screws up her whole face, and turns away from him, as if making ready for the scratchy assault on her cheek that she knows is coming. She did the exact same thing both times that her father initiated this little routine joke between the two of them.
The interactions with her family and our appearance in her room appeared to require some effort and exertion from Terri. From time to time, she would close her eyes as if to rest. This happened primarily when no one was paying particular attention to her, but we were talking among ourselves. After a few minutes or when one of the visitors approached her and started to talk directly to her again, Terri would open her eyes and begin her grunting sounds again in response to their conversations. Although I approached her, leaned close and stroked her arms and spoke to her, she did not verbally respond to me.
Terris hands are curled up around little soft cylinders that help her not to injure herself. I understand that these contractures are likely very painful, although there was a time when Terri was receiving simple motion therapy when her hands and arms relaxed and were no longer as constricted. When the therapy was discontinued by order of her guardian and the court, the contractures returned. These contractures would apparently be avoidable if Terri were given the simple range of motion therapy she previously received. It is very sad to observe firsthand these conditions that make her life more difficult, but that would be correctable with little effort.
When we were preparing to leave, the interactions with Terri changed. First, she went through the joke routine with her father and the lemon face. When her niece said goodbye to her, Terri did not react. Nor did she react to me or to Attorney Gibbs when we said our goodbyes to her. When her sister went to her to say goodbye, Terris verbalizations changed dramatically. Instead of the happy grunting and uh uh sounds she had been making throughout the visit, her verbalizations at these goodbyes changed to a very low and different sound that appeared to come from deep in her throat and was almost like a growl. She first made the sound when her sister said goodbye and then, amazingly to me, she made exactly the same sound when her mother said goodbye to her. It seemed Terri was visibly upset that they were leaving. She almost appeared to be trying to cling to them, although this impression came only from her changed facial expression and sounds, since her hands cannot move. It appeared like she did not want to be alone and knew they were leaving. It was definitely apparent in the short time I was there that her emotions changedit was apparent when she was happy and enjoying herself, when she was amused, when she was resting from her exertion to communicate, and when she was sad at her guests leaving. It was readily apparent and surprising that her mood changed so often in a short 45-minute visit.
I was pleasantly surprised to observe Terris purposeful and varied behaviors with the various members of her family and with Attorney Gibbs and myself. I never imagined Terri would be so active, curious, and purposeful. She watched people intently, obviously was attempting to communicate with each one in various ways and with various facial expressions and sounds. She was definitely not in a coma, not even close. This visit certainly shed more light for me on why the Schindlers are fighting so hard to protect her, to get her medical care and rehabilitative assistance, and to spend all they have to protect her life.
I realize that Terri has good days and bad days. There are obviously days when she does not interact with her family, as they had previously told us. There are also apparently days when Terri is even more interactive and responsive to them than she was on the day I visited. Since this visit I am more convinced than ever that the Schindlers are not just parents who refuse to let go of their daughter. There really is a lot going on with their daughter and potentially, it seemed obvious to me, Terri could improve even more with appropriate care and 24 hour a day love that can only come from a dedicated family. As I watched her, my foremost thought was that on the next day, Christmas, Terri should not have been confined to her small room in a hospice center, nice as that room was, but that she should have been gathered around the Christmas dinner table enjoying the holiday with her family.
MEDIA: Call the Gibbs Law Firm Media Director, Mr. Keith Brickell, at O:727-399-8300 or C:727-458-4824 to arrange an interview with Attorney David Gibbs III or Attorney Barbara Weller. He can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation is the official organization responsible for speaking on behalf of the Schindler family. For more information and background on the case, visit the foundations website at www.terrisfight.org.
Prayerful bump for Terri ...
I join you in prayer for Terri and for the lawmakers to get this pushed through.
Child of God...
We pray those judicial sinners...
Do not cause the hour of thy death...
I have mixed feelings about this legislation. While it does offer a potential escape from state court control over Terri's situation, it's an intrusion into states' rights, ensures that lawyers stay employed, and potentially will have no practical benefit at all.
Judge Greer won't allow anyone to ask her, or if they do ask her, he won't allow such testimony in his court.
Terri ping! If anyone would like to be added to or removed from my Terri ping list, please let me know by FReepmail!
Terri's case will certainly affect other cases in every state before you know it. If this is allowed to happen to her, just wait to see them offing people without living wills left and right. It's already happening but with much less fanfare all around our country.