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Court-Appointed Advocate Calls For Exam Of Terri Schiavo's Brain Damage
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 25, 2005

TAMPA, FLORIDA--The University of South Florida professor who had been appointed as Terri Schiavo's independent advocate under "Terri's Law" said Tuesday that tests should be done to determine once and for all whether she is in a "persistent vegetative state", as her husband claims, or alert and awake, as her parents argue.

Both sides would first need to drop any court action and accept a final decision by a review panel, said Jay Wolfson, who acted as Terri's guardian ad litem for two months after Governor Jeb Bush passed the law which had her feeding tube replaced six days after it had been removed.

"There is so much at stake here, not just for Terri, but for the issue," Wolfson told the Associated Press.

"If we were serious about addressing this, we would say, 'What are the interests of the parties and how can we use science, medicine and good law to take away from the clouding factors in this case?'"

Terri's parents and her husband have both suggested and refused reviews by experts during the decade-long battle over whether Terri should live or die.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to intervene in the Florida Supreme Court's decision to reject the law that kept Terri alive after October 21, 2003. That decision held that the governor overstepped his authority under the state's Constitution when he championed the law.

Later on Monday, an attorney for Terri's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, asked Michael Schiavo to divorce Terri and let them become her guardians.

"If there is any way for Michael to walk away . . . just please, please, please let them keep their daughter and just walk away," said attorney David Gibbs.

Mr. Schiavo has indicated that he plans to have Terri's feeding tube removed as soon as it is legally possible.

Terri is currently being kept alive under a stay granted by Pinellas Circuit Court Judge George Greer, who said he would not allow Mr. Schiavo to remove the tube until after the Schindlers' appeals to the appellate court are exhausted.

The Schindlers currently have an appeal before the 2nd District Court of Appeal over its refusal to hold a new trial based on comments made last March by Pope John Paul II. The pontiff proclaimed that allowing people with disabilities to starve to death is unethical and immoral "euthanasia by omission". Her parents believe that, as a Roman Catholic, Terri would not have wanted to go against the pope.

The Schindlers also have a request that Michael be removed as their daughter's guardian, and another case claiming that Terri's constitutional due process rights have been violated.

Greer could lift the stay as early as next month if the appellate court does not rule in the family's favor. However, the Schindlers could ask for him to keep the stay in place while they appeal any of the other court actions, which could take months.

Terri collapsed from a heart attack on February 26, 1990 and her brain was without oxygen for several minutes. She breathes on her own, but because she cannot swallow, she receives food and water through the tube installed through the wall of her stomach. Her husband and several doctors have said that she is in a "persistent vegetative state" from which she cannot recover. Even though she left no will or advanced directive, courts have accepted Mr. Schiavo's claims that she told him she would not want to live "by artificial means".

Terri's parents have battled with her husband over what they assert is her right to live. They claim she is awake, alert, and could benefit from therapies -- including swallowing therapies -- which Mr. Schiavo has refused to allow. They argue that he should be removed as guardian, in part because he is engaged to a woman with whom he has fathered two children.

Disability rights groups have been closely following Terri's situation and have supported her parents and Governor Bush in their efforts to keep her alive. The advocates claim that Terri represents tens of thousands of people with severe disabilities who are forced to rely on others to decide whether they will live or die.

"Who put the ethics in Bioethics?" by Pamela F. Hennessy (Opinion Editorials)
"Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)
Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation

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