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Greer Grants 48-Hour Stay; State Agency Asks For Time To Investigate Abuse Claims
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 23, 2005

CLEARWATER, FLORIDA--The removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube has been postponed for at least an additional 48 hours, while a judge considers legal motions by her parents to keep her alive.

Just an hour before his temporary stay was set to expire on Wednesday, Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge George Greer announced that he would extend the stay until 5 p.m. Friday -- 14 years to the day of her initial collapse. In the meantime, Greer will consider arguments from Bob and Mary Schindler who claim that their daughter's Constitutional rights to due process have been violated, that her condition should be reassessed with new technology, and that her husband should be removed as her legal guardian.

"We're really elated," Schiavo's father told reporters outside the courthouse after the stay was extended. "At least we have 48 hours now before they may try to kill Terri."

In a surprise move late Wednesday, Florida's Department of Children and Families asked Greer to issue an additional 60-day delay so the agency can investigate claims that Terri has been abused. The agency did not give details of the abuse claims, and did not confirm whether the investigation was prompted by Governor Jeb Bush.

Greer said he would not consider the DCF motion.

Governor Bush has been watching the case closely, and had indicated that he was looking for any legal way to intervene on behalf of Terri's family. His attempt to save her life in October 2003, a piece of legislation known as "Terri's Law", kept her alive for more than a year while it weaved through legal challenges from Michael Schiavo. The law was finally declared unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court last fall.

The governor told reporters on Wednesday: "I can assure you I will do whatever I can within the means, within the laws, of our state to protect this woman's life."

His office denied that he had ordered the investigation.

Terri was 26 when she collapsed and stopped breathing on February 25, 1990, and her brain was without oxygen for several minutes. Since then, she has been breathing on her own, but she receives her food and water through a tube installed through the wall of her stomach.

Her husband and several of his doctors convinced the court that she is in a "persistent vegetative state", that she is not aware of her surroundings, and that she will not recover. Mr. Schiavo also convinced the court that Terri told him before her brain injury she would not have wanted to live "by artificial means". He was first given permission to have her feeding tube removed so she would die of starvation and dehydration in 1998.

Terri's parents have blocked Mr. Schiavo's attempts to allow their daughter to die. They have argued that she is alert and that her condition should be evaluated using new technology. They believe she would recover with rehabilitation that her husband has refused to permit. They also claim that he has a conflict of interest as Terri's guardian, in part because he wants to marry a woman with whom he has fathered two children.

The New York Times noted that there is talk in the Florida Legislature about changing state law so that a spouse cannot serve as a guardian if he or she is living with someone else. Senate president Tom Lee said that any such proposal would need to be broad, unlike "Terri's Law" which was criticized for narrowly applying only to Terri Schiavo.

Allegations that Michael Schiavo has abused his wife have surfaced in the past. In the fall of 2003, affidavits from former nursing home employees alleging that Michael was uncaring and abusive to his wife, along with claims from the Schindlers that he neglected her, prompted Pinellas State Attorney Bernie McCabe and Florida's Advocacy Center for Persons with Disabilities to launch independent investigations.

McCabe found no evidence of abuse in Terri's medical records, and noted that the statute of limitations had already expired.

The Advocacy Center was unable to complete its investigation because Mr. Schiavo refused to allow a medical expert to examine Terri.

Several disability rights groups have been supporting Terri's family in their efforts to spare her life. They are concerned that allowing Terri to die by starvation would reinforce a strong societal view that the lives of people with certain disabilities are "not worth living".

"Florida Steps Back Into Fight Over Feeding Tube for Woman" (New York Times)
"Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

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