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For the second time in as many years, a circuit judge has ordered the feeding tube removed from a 38-year-old brain-damaged Florida woman, ruling there is no hope of her recovery.
As WorldNetDaily reported, Michael Schiavo
filed a petition to remove the feeding tube from his wife, Terri Schindler-Schiavo, maintaining she wouldn’t
want to be kept alive through artificial means. Terri’s family disputes the claim and has been fighting a four-year court battle to block his efforts.
Judge George Greer of the 6th Judicial Circuit Court in Clearwater, Fla., ruled today in favor of medical experts solicited by Schiavo’s attorney George Felos and a court-appointed neurologist, who testified that Terri remains in a persistent vegetative state, and available treatment options don’t offer the
“sufficient promise of increased cognitive function” in her cerebral cortex to significantly improve her quality of life.
The decision affirms Greer’s prior ruling in February 2000 that was first upheld and then remanded by an appellate court back down to the trial court for an evidentiary hearing to explore Terri’s current medical condition, the availability and efficacy of treatments for her and their acceptance within the
There is no written directive from Terri. In the 2000 trial, Greer ruled on the basis of testimony by Schiavo, his brother and sister-in-law that she made “casual statements” to them that she would not want to be kept alive artificially.
The removal of Terri’s feeding tube, scheduled by Greer for Jan. 3, 2003, will cause her to die of dehydration and starvation.
“I’m sickened and I’m very angry,” Terri’s father Bob Schindler told WND reacting to the ruling. Schindler said he predicted the evidentiary hearing would be just an exercise.
“Over the past two and a half years [Greer] has made about 60 decisions adverse to Terri and our family, from denying swallowing tests and other medical tests to denial of visitation … he even denied us the right to take photographs of her,” he said.
Though severely brain-damaged, Terri breathes and maintains a heart beat and blood pressure on
her own. She can see and move her limbs. But she needs a feeding tube to sustain her life. Terri has been in this condition since Feb. 25, 1990, when at the age of 26, she suffered cardiac arrest at home and oxygen was cut off to her brain for several minutes.
Physicians solicited by Pat Anderson, the attorney who represents the Schindlers, testified in last month’s evidentiary hearing that Terri shows cognitive function and would benefit from vasodilatation and hyperbaric therapy. As evidence, Anderson presented videotape in which Terri appears to interact with
her mother, follow commands to open and shut her eyes and lift limbs, and tracks a Mickey Mouse balloon across the room.
“At first blush, the video of Terri Schiavo appearing to smile and look lovingly at her mother seemed to
represent cognition,” Greer wrote in his opinion, but then stated the responses did not represent cognitive
function because they were “neither consistent nor reproducible.” Greer noted Terri was given 111 commands and asked 72 questions throughout the duration of the videotaped examinations.
“The court saw few actions that could be considered responsive to either those commands or those questions,” Greer wrote in his opinion.
“That’s a bizarre way to analyze the evidence,” Anderson told WND. “As Dr. [William] Hammesfahr testified, with brain-damaged patients sometimes the neurons will go online and offline for as much as 20 minutes. [Greer] is applying a performance standard that might not be applicable to a brain-damaged woman,” she said.
Greer concurred with the testimony of the court-appointed medical expert and those petitioned by Felos that the vasodilatation and hyperbaric therapies are “experimental insofar as the medical
community is concerned with regards to patients like Terri Schiavo.”
“[Greer] didn’t think much of the credibility of the parents’ physicians,” said Felos who argued in the evidentiary hearing that both lacked credibility.
But a Florida administrative law judge concluded otherwise earlier this week. In ruling on a state department of health complaint lodged against Hammesfahr over his vasodilatation therapy, Judge Susan Kirkland found he “is the first physician to treat patients successfully to restore deficits caused by stroke.”
“If there’s a possibility that the treatment would work, why not give Terri the chance to find out?” Schindler questions.
“I think one is struck by how firm the judge’s order was that the evidence is overwhelming that she’s in a persistent vegetative state and there is no hope of improvement,” Felos told WND.
“My client is very grateful to the judge for this ruling,” he said.
‘History of trauma’
In ordering the removal of the feeding tube, Greer denied the family’s emergency motion filed last week to hold his decision in abeyance until new medical evidence is investigated.
As WorldNetDaily reported, Anderson’s motion referenced a newly discovered report of a total-body nuclear imaging bone scan done on Terri while she was in a rehabilitation facility 13 months after her brain injury. The report describes the
accumulation of contrasting agent, or “hot spots,” that suggest multiple fractures. In the words of an unnamed physician who reviewed the report at Anderson’s request, “Somebody worked her over real good.”
The March 5, 1991, report notes a compression fracture of her thigh “which is presumably traumatic.” Other “hot spots” are suggestive of fractures in her ribs, the first lumbar vertebra and several thoracic vertebrae, both sacroiliac joints, and both knees and ankles. The report states, “the patient has a history
of trauma” and “the presumption is that the other multiple areas of abnormal activity [‘hot spots’] also relate to previous trauma.”
“It’s clear there is a possibility that this bone scan represents the true cause of Terri’s collapse,” Anderson argued in a hearing held last week on the motion and maintains the bone scan “changes the whole complexion of the case.”
Felos argued the “hot spots” on the bone scan show degenerative bone disease, not multiple fractures … and only showed a minor fracture in the femur.
Felos filed affidavits from Terri’s treating physicians at the time who reportedly state the bone scan
was ordered to explain the warmth and swelling of her knees, and to specifically explore whether she suffered from heterotropic ossification.
Felos defined “heterotropic ossification” as “abnormal calcium growth on some portion of the bones”
and, citing medical records, said the ossification, or abnormal growth, was due to osteoporosis, or bone
loss, which he said could be explained by the combination of Terri’s immobility and the anti-seizure medication she was given.
“The court concludes that while it might be interesting to pursue the issue of trauma as it may have occurred almost 12 years ago, that has nothing to do with Theresa Marie Schiavo in 2002,” Greer said.
“That just blew my mind that he would minimize the bone scan. That’s why she’s in the condition she’s in very probably,” Schindler told WND.
Appeal on the horizon
“The trauma issue is more than interesting it’s worthy of investigation. That just gives me another issue for an appeal,” said Anderson who also believes Greer made legal and factual errors in his ruling. She plans to file a notice of appeal and a motion for a stay of Greer’s ruling pending the appeal.
“I’m taking it back to the court that expressed concerns about killing her from the bench. … You’ve got to keep the faith that ultimately we’ll prevail. I will just keep pushing my rock up the hill,” she said.
Felos thinks the clock is working against the Schindlers.
“I’m cautiously hopeful the 2nd District Court of Appeal will conclude ‘enough is enough,'” he told
WND. “Every day that this case goes on Terri is being force-fed against her will and the public’s faith in the judicial system errodes. It shouldn’t take five years for a case like this to be resolved,” he added.