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October 23, 2004
Year V, Edition 1026
Today's edition features 5 news and information items, each preceded by a number (#) symbol.
QUOTES OF THE DAY:
"I personally don't want to be a party to removing a feeding tube that causes us to take an innocent life."
--Florida Governor Jeb Bush, upon announcing that his office would take their case against Michael Schiavo to the U.S. Supreme Court (First story)
"We are aggressively pursuing all the options with the ultimate goal
of having Terri's life spared."
--David Gibbs, attorney for Terri Schiavo's parents, who were told Friday that a Florida court would not allow them to challenge Michael Schiavo's guardianship based on new pronouncements by Pope John Paul II (First story)
"Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)
"Terri Schiavo's Right To Live: Timeline" (Inclusion Daily Express)
# ADVOCACY / FAMILIES / LAWS
Two Courts Refuse To Hear Appeals Over Keeping Terri Schiavo Alive
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 23, 2004
TALLAHASSEE & CLEARWATER, FLORIDA--One year after Terri Schiavo's feeding tube was reinserted and her life was spared, two separate legal rulings have dealt what are at least temporary set-backs to those who support her right to continue living.
On Thursday, a year to the day after Terri's feeding tube was reinstalled under a legislative directive, the Florida Supreme Court ruled, without comment, that it would not hear an appeal by Governor Jeb Bush over it's September 23, 2004 decision.
The court had ruled that the Legislature violated the state Constitution's separation of powers when it gave Bush the authority to have Terri's feeding tube reinserted on October 22, 2003, just six days after it had been removed under a Pinellas County Circuit Court order.
Governor Bush said Friday that his office would appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. They have 15 days to do so. Bush said he might request a stay, which would keep Terri alive until, or if, the high court agrees to hear the case.
"I personally don't want to be a party to removing a feeding tube that causes us to take an innocent life," the governor said.
"On death row, it takes 20 years for the appeals process to end, and the state spends hundreds of thousands of dollars before it allows a convicted felon to be executed. I would hope that we would take as much care when it comes to an innocent life."
Also on Friday, in a separate case over Terri's life, Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge George W. Greer said that he would not hear an appeal by Terri's parents filed last month. Her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, had asked Greer to reconsider his 2000 decision in which he agreed with Michael Schiavo, Terri's husband and guardian, that Terri would not have wanted to live "by artificial means".
The Schindlers believe that Terri, 40, a life-long Catholic, would not have wanted to die by starvation at this point, 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.
Greer wrote in his ruling Friday that nothing had changed since his earlier 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 to counsel her.
"There is nothing new presented regarding Terri Schiavo's religious attitude and there is still no religious adviser to assist this or any other court in weighing her desire to comply with this or any other papal pronouncement," Greer wrote.
Greer added however, that Terri's feeding tube could not be removed until December 6, so that her parents could have time to arrange an appeal to his decision.
The Schindlers indicated through their attorney that they would appeal Greer's ruling.
"The family's faith remains strong and they are hopeful that their daughter's life will ultimately be spared," the family said in a statement. "They covet the prayers of others who are concerned about Terri as they continue to pursue their legal options."
Terri collapsed in February 1990 from what doctors believed was a potassium imbalance, perhaps caused by an eating disorder. Her heart stopped beating, and her brain was without oxygen for several minutes. After she came out of a coma, doctors ruled that Terri was in a "persistent vegetative state", that her brain was damaged to the point that she was no longer aware of her surroundings, could not feel pain, and would not recover.
Terri regulates her own breathing and blood pressure. She does not swallow, but is given food and hydration through a tube installed through the wall of her stomach.
Her husband and guardian, Michael, filed a petition in 1998 to have Terri's feeding tube removed so that she would die of starvation and dehydration. He told the court that his wife told him before her collapse that she would not have wanted to live "by artificial means". The feeding tube was removed for two days in April 2001 and for six days in October 2003, before it was ordered reinserted while courts considered legal actions by her parents.
Terri's parents have challenged Michael Schiavo's efforts to have her feeding tube removed. They believe Terri responds to them, smiles, and has even tried to stand up. They want Terri to receive therapies that Mr. Schiavo has refused her for at least ten years, including speech and swallowing therapies.
They want Mr. Schiavo removed as Terri's legal guardian, pointing to the fact that he spent much of the fund intended for her care and rehabilitation on his fight to have her die, and that for the last several years he has been engaged to another woman with whom he has fathered two children.
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 what would be commonly known as "Terri's Law" and championed it through the Legislature in near-record time, leading to the reinsertion of Terri's feeding tube.
Michael Schiavo appealed the 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.
The Schindlers indicated that they are ready for the next round of legal actions.
"We are aggressively pursuing all the options with the ultimate goal of having Terri's life spared," their lead attorney, David Gibbs, told reporters. "[The Schindlers] were very pleased with the stay because it removed a cloud of fear and uncertainty. They can sleep well tonight and breathe a sigh of relief."
Remembering The Spotted Owl: Activism And Terri Schiavo
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 22, 2004
Remember the spotted owl?
During the 1980s in the Pacific Northwest, the spotted owl became, for environmentalists, the symbol of everything wrong with the timber industry. For the timber industry, the speckled bird became the symbol of everything wrong with environmentalism.
In the economically depressed, timber industry region where I lived, I often saw bumper stickers suggesting, "Save a logger: Eat a spotted owl".
I asked a friend who was close to the environmental movement what was so darned special about this bird. She patiently explained that there are a whole host of creatures that need untouched old-growth forests in order to hunt, nest, lay eggs - to survive.
Environmental activists chose to focus their campaign, and hang their hopes, on the fate of the spotted owl for a very practical reason: Americans like owls -- at least they like them a lot more than they do the lizards, rodents, slugs, beetles, mosses and lichens that also need untouched, old-growth habitat in order to survive. To get people to care about the forest, activists had to select a symbol people could cuddle up to.
I've thought about the spotted owl quite a bit during the past couple of years. It seems to me that Terri Schiavo has - for disability rights groups and advocates of other causes - become our very own spotted owl.
Please understand, I don't mean to depersonalize Terri and her family's struggle. Far from it.
Rather, I believe Terri, like the spotted owl, has become much more than herself.
In fact, in the minds of many disability rights activists, she has come to represent tens of thousands of people with severe brain-related disabilities. Some are in comas. Some are in what doctors describe as "persistent vegetative states". Others simply do not have caring folks to whom they can communicate their wishes.
Many have been written off as "lives not worth living" or "better off dead". "Do not resuscitate" has likely been stamped in their medical records.
In the past couple of years, disability rights groups and "right to life" groups have rallied around Terri and her family, with a sense of solidarity. For some, Terri is "one of us", in that other people have the power to make life-and-death decisions on her behalf. Others know that we are just one car accident, stroke or heart attack from being in her place.
What Terri's situation has done is spark a very public debate about one's right to live or die, that usually takes the form of quiet discussions in hundreds of hospital wards, nursing home rooms, attorneys offices and hospices across the country and around the world.
Because she has managed to hang on -- against formidable odds -- for the past 14 years, Terri has given us time to focus the attention of political candidates for all parties, along with lawyers and lawmakers, medical professionals and ethicists, presidents and prime ministers - even Pope John Paul II -- on the plight of so many others in her circumstances.
This can only help others and possibly help any of us thrown into the same situation.
At a minimum, it has presented countless opportunities for us to patiently educate others as to what is so special about this one woman and her family.
It is important for us to give Terri's parents all the support we can muster. It is also important for us, as advocates, to avoid turning Terri into a mere symbol of a cause, while forgetting about the big picture.
In the same way that those who care about the environment must consider all of the forests' creatures, it is important for us to pay attention to all of the other "Terri Schiavos" that have not had benefit of publicity campaigns, candlelight vigils, or parents who would spend their lives and livelihoods to save one life.
As my environmentalist friend might say, we need to make sure we don't fail to see the forests for the spotted owls.
Twelve Questions For Michael Schiavo
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 23, 2004
A couple of weeks ago, CNN's Larry King asked Robert and Mary Schindler what they thought Michael Schiavo's reasons are for wanting Terri to die.
They both answered that they didn't know.
After eleven years of battling their son-in-law, they still don't know.
Of course, none of us can know what goes on in another person's mind.
Their actions, however, can give us a glimpse into their thinking.
In television clips I have seen of Michael, he comes across as arrogant, brash, and intimidating. Michael makes it easy to dislike him.
But just because I don't like someone doesn't mean he's not telling the truth.
At the same time, it's been hard for me to judge Michael's thoughts because I have never been in his place. In fact, I can not imagine being in his place.
Since 1997, Michael has consistently said that he wants Terri's feeding tube removed because it is what she would have wanted -- that he is honoring her wishes because he loves her very much. He testified that Terri mentioned on several occasions that she would not want to live "by artificial means". As witnesses, he presented his brother and sister-in-law who verified his testimony.
I would not hesitate to take Mr. Schiavo at his word, if it weren't for other things he has said and done that cause me to doubt his sincerity. So, for me to get a better understanding of what he's been thinking, I'd like to ask him a few questions:
1. Why has he refused several recommendations for Terri's continued therapies?
In April of 1991, about a year after her collapse, therapists at Bradenton Mediplex Rehabilitation Center determined that Terri's condition was improving and recommended Michael have her transferred to Gainesville Rehabilitation Center to receive advanced therapy so she could continue her recovery.
But by July, Michael had instead moved her to Sable Palms Nursing Home, with no such therapy.
Later, he refused to allow therapies that her parents believed might have allowed her to swallow, so she would not have to rely on a feeding tube.
2. Why did he not mention his wife's wishes during one of two malpractice cases?
In late 1992, one of Terri's doctors settled a malpractice suit out of court for $250,000. The following January, a Pinellas jury awarded about $1.4 to Terri and $600,000 to Michael in a suit filed because her gynecologist failed to ask about her medical history while treating her.
Michael had asked the jury to grant $20 million to pay for Terri's future medical and neurological requirements, based on her life expectancy, which he and his attorneys estimated at 51 years. Michael also told the court he wanted to become a nurse so he could help his wife for as long as she lived.
His attorney told the court about Terri: "She can't respond much but she can respond, and she does respond a little bit, not much. But enough to give him hope."
The following month, February 1993, Terri's parents had a 'falling out' with their son-in-law, because, they claim, he refused the therapies that professionals had recommended.
3. If Michael expected Terri to live to at least age 51, why did he order her caregivers not to treat her for a potentially life-threatening infection in August of 1993, and another in late 1995?
4. Why did he invoke a "do not resuscitate" order just a few months after the jury award?
5. Why, in 1997, did he announce his engagement to another woman, while still married to Terri?
6. Why, also in 1997, did he hire George Felos, an attorney with a reputation for fighting "right to die" cases, to represent him?
7. Why did he petition the court, also in 1997, to have Terri's feeding tube removed so she would starve and dehydrate to death.
8. Why did several nursing home workers swear that Terri's demeanor changed after he was in the room with her?
9. Why did nursing home workers swear that he at times stormed into the facility asking when "that bitch" would die?
10. Why did he have Terri, who does not have a terminal illness, moved to a hospice in 2000, even though hospices are designed for people who are expected to die within six months? According to his earlier calculations, she still had at least 15 more years left to live.
I have no reason to believe that Michael Schiavo did not love his wife. My guess is -- and this is only a guess based on his actions that have been reported -- that he did plan for his wife to live a long life, and that he even thought there was a chance she might recover some of her "old self" right after her injury.
I wonder, however, if her costly therapy became less of a priority when he saw the $20 million he projected for her long-term care and rehabilitation -- and to compensate him for his loss -- shrink to $1.4 million. I wonder, too, if the fact that he had been living without a lover for three years weighed heavily on him, along with feelings that it was time for him to "move on with his life".
I can imagine a vague comment Terri may have made about life-support suddenly taking on new meaning and new urgency: Terri would not have wanted "to live like this".
We really don't know.
But something clearly shifted in his mind. Choosing George Felos, who even in 1997 had a history of supporting "right to die" causes, was a clear and conscious choice, in my view. From that point on, Michael wanted his wife to die and was willing to spend most or all of the money from her trust fund to make that happen.
And Terri, bless her, did not die.
Finally, there are two questions that nag at me more than any others and which I cannot reconcile:
11. Why won't he allow Terri's parents and siblings to take over her guardianship?
12. Why did Michael not allow Terri, a Catholic, the holy sacraments of Communion and last rites when her feeding tube was removed last October?
I am not Catholic, but I understand these rites to be an extremely important practice in Catholicism
Michael said it was because she might choke on a communion wafer or inhale some of the wine.
In my view, nothing could be more absurd.
For one thing, priests have explained that the ceremony could have been adapted by dissolving much of the wafer before placing it on Terri's tongue and touching a cloth dabbed in wine to her lips.
For another, Michael planned on starving her to death and had believed she only had a few more days to live.
If he loves his wife as he says he does, why did he deny his wife this most important, final gesture of love?
Why, Michael? Why?
These are just some of the questions I'd like a better handle on. I'm
sure you have some, too. If you do, please share them with us at the
Inclusion Daily Express discussion board:
Unlikely Alliances And Foes In The Schiavo Debate
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 22, 2004
A year ago this week, disability rights advocates were celebrating what seemed our most public victory since, perhaps, the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.
A Florida governor, and brother to the President of the United States, had -- in near record time -- passed a law ordering a feeding tube reinserted into a woman who had been starving without one for six days.
Grassroots advocacy had worked!
Amidst all of the celebrating, however, I sensed a quiet bewilderment. Some said they felt the movement had been hi-jacked by other, larger, perhaps better-organized groups.
More than a dozen national disability groups publicly supported Terri's parents in their efforts to keep her alive. There can be little doubt, however, that much of the flood of messages to Governor Bush and Florida lawmakers came not from disability advocates but from advocates with a "right to life" agenda, primarily from religious groups.
Disability advocates held candlelight vigils during the time Terri was without her feeding tube, to draw attention to what we consider her human rights struggle.
But almost immediately after her feeding tube was reinserted, Terri's situation became reduced in the press to "right to die" versus "pro-life" sound-bites.
Those of us who support Terri's struggle to stay alive, though grateful for the help, found ourselves - like it or not -- allied with "anti-abortionists" on one side and the targets of scorn from "pro-choice" groups from the other.
Much of that has been a reaction to the fact that Michael Schiavo, his attorney, George Felos, and the American Civil Liberties Union have framed Terri's situation as a "right to die" case. In the view of their supporters, those who do not agree with what courts deem her "right to die" must be "pro-lifers" and, therefore, anti-abortionists.
Certainly, some of us are, and some of us are not.
In the meantime, the roar of the "pro-life" vs. "pro-choice" debate may have drowned out the message we felt was important regarding the tens of thousands of people with disabilities similar to Terri's.
At the same time, allegations that Michael abused and exploited his wife have ironically been ignored by women's groups that have a pro-choice agenda.
We have no way of knowing the effect the public debate surrounding Terri's situation has had, and will have, on health care policy and funding, along with countless family discussions and decisions.
It is clear that our voices in this debate would not have been heard at all if Terri had not been alive during the past year.
It's also clear that Terri would not be alive today if it weren't for the efforts of disability groups and "right to life" groups working together to influence that public policy debate.
For that reason, I am personally grateful to all of those who acted, in large ways and small, to make their voices heard - even those who have borrowed the megaphone and stolen the spotlight from us to do so.
Perhaps during the next year, we can focus on moving the public debate from "pro-this" and "anti-that", and pumping up the volume on issues that are important to the twenty percent of our population that have disabilities.
"Who 'owns' Terri Schiavo?" by Mary Johnson (Ragged Edge Magazine -- October 23, 2003)
# TODAY'S FEATURED WEBSITE
Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation
Welcome to the online home of the Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation. Terri's Fight is dedicated to keeping you up to date on Terri's situation and how you can help to save the life of an innocent, disabled woman.
# EXTRA! From the IDE Archives -- One year ago:
Terri Schiavo Back On Feeding Tube;
Advocacy Efforts Work To Spare Terri's Life
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 21, 2003
TAMPA, FLORIDA--Terri Schiavo is receiving food and water through a feeding tube installed into her stomach late Tuesday.
Doctors reinserted the tube at a local hospital, under order of Governor Jeb Bush, six days after it had been removed.
"I'm ecstatic she's being fed again," said her brother, Bob Schindler Jr. "I dont think I can describe the way I feel right now. It's been unreal."
Bush was granted authority by the state legislature to order the feeding tube replaced just a few hours earlier in the day. The Senate voted 23-14 to pass a measure that was specifically written to save Terri. The House then approved it with a 73-24 vote. The governor signed the bill into law and issued the order about one hour later.
George Felos, attorney for Terri's husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo, immediately filed a request for an injunction to stop the feeding tube from being replaced. Pinellas Circuit Court Judge George Greer, who had consistently sided with Schiavo for the last several years, rejected the request. Felos' request with another state court was also denied.
"We won," Terri's father, Robert Schindler, said after the ruling. "Terri won."
Whether the feeding tube will save Terri's life was not clear late Tuesday. According to family members, her kidneys had begun shutting down and her circulation had been impaired during the six days she went without food or water.
Disability rights groups and right to life groups celebrated cautiously, noting that the law is expected to be challenged through the same courts that ordered her feeding tube removed. Their grassroots efforts were the primary force that pressured Bush to intervene in the case. During the past few days, the governor received tens of thousands of messages from around the world asking him to stop Terri's starvation death.
Terri collapsed in February 1990 at age 26 from a chemical imbalance and was without oxygen for several minutes. Some doctors have said that the damage to her brain left her in a "persistent vegetative state" from which she cannot recover.
Michael Schiavo claims his wife told him before her collapse that she would not want to live "by artificial means". In 1998 he petitioned the court for permission to have the feeding tube removed. Until Tuesday night, the courts had consistently sided with Mr. Schiavo.
Terri's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, have fought to keep their daughter alive and have rehabilitative therapies tried. Several medical professionals have claimed that Terri is not in a vegetative state, and that she could benefit from therapies -- including speech and swallowing therapies -- which her husband has denied her for several years. Video tapes also show Terri apparently laughing, smiling, interacting with family members, and following basic directions less than two years ago. The Schindlers accuse their son-in-law of abusing and neglecting Terri, and suspect him in bringing about her initial collapse.
The law giving Bush the power to order the feeding tube replaced also directs the Circuit Court to appoint a new guardian for Terri.
Activists holding a 24-hour vigil in front of the hospice where Terri has been kept for the past few years cheered as an ambulance took her to the hospital to have the feeding tube replaced.
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