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Pressure Mounts On Terri Schiavo's Parents And Advocates;
Federal And State Lawmakers Consider Measures To Save Her Life

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 8, 2005

TAMPA, FLORIDA--Terri Schiavo's parents, disability rights groups, right-to-life groups, state abuse investigators and lawmakers in Congress are trying to get Terri's life extended at least past the March 18 date that is set for her feeding tube to be removed.

Last Friday, a court unsealed a 34-page document filed by Florida's Department of Children & Families, listing 30 new allegations of abuse, neglect and exploitation of Terri by her husband, Michael Schiavo. The department asked Pinellas Circuit Judge George Greer to delay the removal of Terri's feeding tube for 60 days so it can investigate the claims which came through its anonymous abuse hot line just last month. Greer is expected to rule this week on DCF's request.

On Monday, Greer rejected requests by Terri's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, that she be allowed to die at home with them rather than at a hospice, and that the media be allowed to view Terri interacting with them. Their attorneys also requested that they be allowed to feed Terri by hand if her feeding tube is taken out as scheduled.

Schindler attorney David Gibbs III asked Greer on Tuesday to allow Terri to be evaluated with new technologies to determine more precisely how her brain is functioning. Gibbs argued that the new methods are much more accurate than those last used in 2002.

Meanwhile, in Washington, DC, U.S. Representative Dave Weldon and U.S. Senator Mel Martinez, both Republicans from Florida, introduced the "Disabled Persons Lifesaving Habeas Corpus Review Act" into Congress. The measure would allow people similar to Terri who are considered "incapacitated" -- who did not have an advance directive -- to be represented by an attorney in federal court.

If the legislation is passed before March 18, Terri's parents could use it to challenge the removal of her feeding tube.

Nine disability rights groups signed on to a statement in support of the measure.

"The non-voluntary and involuntary starvation and dehydration of people with disabilities is a more prevalent problem than most people realize," the Not Dead Yet statement read.

Terri's brain was damaged on February 25, 1990 after she collapsed and did not breathe for several minutes. Mr. Schiavo and several doctors convinced the court that Terri is in a "persistent vegetative state", that much of her brain does not function, and that she cannot recover. While she left nothing in writing, Mr. Schiavo testified that Terri told him before her injury that she would not want to live by artificial means.

Terri's parents have presented their own evidence that Terri laughs with them, tries to talk, and has even tried to stand up. They argue that she would recover some functioning if provided with rehabilitative therapies, perhaps even learning to swallow so she can be safely taken off the feeding tube. They claim that Mr. Schiavo has failed as her guardian because he has denied those therapies -- despite promises he made to provide rehabilitation before being given a $700,000 settlement for her care more than a decade ago. They also say that he has a conflict of interest because he has been engaged for years to a woman with whom he has fathered two children.

Florida lawmakers are expected to consider legislation that could spare Terri's life. However, the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives said he would not rush any measure through the Legislature.

When Terri's feeding tube was last removed in October 2003, disability rights advocates and right-to-life groups flooded the offices of Florida lawmakers and Governor Jeb Bush with tens of thousands of messages demanding something be done to spare her life. Bush championed "Terri's Law" through the Legislature in near-record time, then ordered her feeding tube to be reinserted just six days after it had been taken out.

The Florida Supreme Court later declared the law unconstitutional.

Links to more coverage on today's "Below The Fold" page:
"Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

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