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Terri Schiavo's Feeding Tube Removed Again
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 18, 2005

PINELLAS PARK, FLORIDA--For the third time in four years, the tube that provides 41-year-old Terri Schiavo with food and water was removed under a court order Friday afternoon.

A doctor disconnected Terri's feeding tube at about 1:45 in her room at the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast in Pinellas Park.

The non-medical procedure came less than an hour after a stay granted last month by Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge George Greer was lifted.

According to the attorney representing her husband, Terri, a Roman Catholic, received the sacrament of Communion with the wine and wafer administered through the feeding tube before it was removed.

If efforts by Florida lawmakers or the U.S. Congress are not successful, Terri is expected to die of dehydration and starvation within the next seven to 14 days.

The removal came after the U.S. House Government Reform Committee issued subpoenas demanding that Terri, her husband Michael Schiavo, and caregivers appear as witnesses next week while it investigates the case. Judge Greer, however, refused to delay the removal, stating that he saw no reason why the committee should intervene.

Late Friday night, the U.S. Supreme Court refused without comment to hear an emergency appeal from House of Representatives lawyers.

Leaders in both houses of Congress pledged Friday night to work over the weekend on a compromise between measures passed late in in the week. The House of Representatives passed H.R.1332 Wednesday which would have applied to "incapacitated persons" similar to Terri. The Senate passed S.653 'A bill for the relief of the family of Theresa Marie Schiavo' on Thursday which specifically would allow Terri's parents to sue in federal court.

Leaders indicated that they may call an end to the Easter recess so that lawmakers could be called back to Washington to vote on a compromise measure.

The debate over the struggle between Terri's husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo, and her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, is taking on a largely partisan tone in Congress and across the country. Many Republicans are calling it a "right to life" case and are defending Terri's parents. Many Democrats are calling it a "right to die" case and are defending the courts and Terri's husband. Discussion on call-in talk shows, websites and news commentaries would indicate, however, that supporters in both parties are not lining up with their leaders on this complicated, personal issue.

Michael Schiavo claims that his wife has been in a "persistent vegetative state" during the 15 years since she collapsed from a chemical imbalance and her brain was without oxygen for several minutes. Even though Terri did not have anything in writing, Mr. Schiavo convinced a local court that she told him before her brain injury that she would not want to live by artificial means. He first petitioned the court in 1998 to have Terri's feeding tube removed, he said, to honor her wishes.

Her parents argue that she is alert and aware, and that she could improve through therapies -- including speech and swallowing therapy -- which Mr. Schiavo has refused. They point out that Terri breathes on her own and only has the feeding tube because she cannot eat by mouth. They want Mr. Schiavo removed as Terri's guardian, claiming that he has conflict of interest, in part because he is engaged to another woman with whom he has fathered two children.

They have pointed out that Mr. Schiavo did not mention what he claims were his wife's wishes until several years after he received over a million dollars in the settlement of a malpractice suit and a jury award. Much of the money, which was intended for Terri's care and rehabilitation, has reportedly been spent on efforts to have her feeding tube removed.

In April 2001, the tube was reinserted two days after it was removed so Terri's parents could pursue a lawsuit against Mr. Schiavo accusing him of perjury.

In October 2003, Governor Jeb Bush, acting on authority granted him by the Legislature, ordered the feeding tube reinstalled six days after it was removed. Bush acted after disability rights advocates and right-to-life groups flooded his office and those of Florida lawmakers with tens of thousands of messages demanding something be done to spare her life. The Florida Supreme Court later upheld a lower court ruling which determined that the law was unconstitutional.

Many disability rights advocates have supported the Schindlers' efforts to keep Terri alive. Terri's situation is similar to that of thousands of people with significant disabilities across the country who are represented by a guardian. They argue that allowing Terri to starve to death would further diminish the value society places on people with disabilities considered "not worth living".

In a statement released Friday, the disability rights group Not Dead Yet, which opposes assisted suicide and euthanasia, said that the disability community could do more to push the issue "to the forefront of the political consciousness" rather than allow the case to be defined by conservatives and progressives.

"Now is the time for us all to do better. We might even manage to work in time to save Terri. If not, we can surely do something to safeguard the rights of thousands of Americans with disabilities whose lives are similarly threatened."

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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