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The Florida Supreme Court’s refusal Friday to review the case of Terri Schindler-Schiavo was the climax of a week-and-a-half of legal setbacks for the brain-damaged woman and her family, and clears the way for Terri’s husband and legal guardian Michael Schiavo, 39, to remove his wife’s feeding tube, causing her to die by starvation and dehydration.
Probate court Judge George Greer has scheduled a hearing for Sept. 11 to set a date for discontinuation of Terri’s feeding.
At an emergency hearing Thursday, Greer postponed deciding whether to allow a revered Roman Catholic priest at
Terri’s bedside to administer the sacraments.
As reported by WorldNetDaily, Terri was transferred early Aug. 14 from
Woodside Hospice facility in Pinellas Park to Morton Plant Hospital in
Clearwater, due to an emergency medical crisis. Her parents, Bob and Mary
Schindler, were not informed of the move and learned of it only when Mary
Schindler made a routine, mid-afternoon phone call to the hospice to inquire
about the status of her daughter.
Under Schiavo’s orders, the family was not kept informed of their daughter’s
medical condition or prognosis for recovery. Furthermore, on Monday they
learned Schiavo had barred Monsignor Thaddeus Malanowski, of the Diocese of
St. Petersburg, from visiting Terri at the hospital, hospice or “other
venue.” The monsignor has been Terri’s chaplain, visiting her with her
parents every Saturday for nearly three years.
Terri’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler of Gulf Port, Fla., have been locked
in a decade-long legal battle with their son-in-law over the care and
custody of their daughter, who suffered massive brain damage when she
collapsed at her home 13 years ago under unexplained circumstances, at the
age of 26.
The bitter dispute over Terri’s lack of care became a major euthanasia
battle five years ago when Schiavo petitioned the court for permission to
have his wife’s feeding tube removed, claiming she is in a persistent
vegetative state – or PVS – and would not want to be kept alive “artificially.” Although Terri breathes on her own and maintains her own
blood pressure, she requires a tube for nourishment and hydration. The Schindlers and a number of doctors and therapists believe she could be rehabilitated, but the courts have consistently sided with Schiavo and his lawyer, right-to-die advocate George Felos.
Upon learning of Schiavo’s action towards Malanowski, the Schindlers’
attorney, Patricia Anderson, filed a petition Tuesday with the probate court
for an emergency motion asking that the monsignor be reinstated to the
court-approved list of people Schiavo said could visit his wife. She further
asked the court to uphold a 1996 order requiring Schiavo to make medical
information promptly available to Terri’s parents, and made a formal request
to have Schiavo replaced with a court-appointed temporary guardian.
At Thursday’s hearing, Deborah Bushnell, attorney for the guardianship,
insisted the Schindlers had been kept informed about their daughter’s
medical state. She said Michael had phoned her at 9 a.m. to tell her Terri
was coughing up blood and had been transferred to Morton Plant. Bushnell
said she advised him to contact the hospice and order them to inform Mary
Schindler whenever she made her daily phone call for information about her
She said Felos gave “more detailed information” to Anderson later that afternoon to pass on to the Schindlers, and that he updated her next day and late Tuesday in statements sent by fax. There was no communication in the intervening four days because there had been no “significant change” in Terri’s condition, she said.
On Wednesday, the day following Anderson’s filing of her emergency motion,
Terri was transferred back to the hospice and was reportedly out of danger.
Anderson pointed out that the Schindlers had learned details of
Terri’s situation only after she had personally phoned Felos “pleading for
information.” She also said her clients still did not have any definitive
information as to why their daughter was hospitalized or what happened to
Greer ordered Bushnell to provide the hospital’s discharge summary to the
parents. As of Saturday this had not been done.
As for the ban on Malanowski, Bushnell denied he was Terri’s priest and
declared his presence was essentially unnecessary. The main gripe against
him was that he had visited the brain-damaged woman at the hospital alone Thursday night,
without her parents as Schiavo required.
“It is particularly inappropriate for him to visit [Terri] unaccompanied,”
she said. “Any spiritual comfort provided by Father Melanowski [sic] was
provided for the Schindlers’ benefit, not Terri’s. Mike will arrange for a
Hospice chaplain who is not a witness in the prior proceedings to visit
Terri if spiritual comfort is required.”
Malanowski was present and prepared to respond to allegations from Schiavo’s
attorneys that he had “misrepresented” himself in order to gain access to
Terri, but Greer refused to allow him to testify.
Bushnell took the opportunity of the hearing to detail several actions by
the Schindlers and their legal team which she viewed as violations of rules
set down by Schiavo and the court. She said Malanowski was not the only
approved visitor to be bumped from the visitors list. Tom Brodersen,
Anderson’s paralegal and office manager, who is a member of the Illinois
bar, was removed last year.
“[Brodersen] was told he could no longer visit because he visited Terri
unaccompanied, and sat in her room for hours taking notes, apparently
playing music and otherwise attempting to elicit responses from Terri,” she
Bushnell also complained of Bob Schindler working with Terri to try and get
her to talk, recording his efforts on audiotape. “It also recently came to
light through an Affidavit signed by Sara Green Mele that audio tapes were
recorded in November 2002 of Terri interacting with Robert Schindler,” she
reported on Schindler’s efforts and speech pathologist Mele’s evaluation
that Terri is an excellent candidate for rehabilitation if given speech,
physical and occupation therapy.
Bushnell said, according to a March 24, 2000, court order by Judge Greer,
the Schindlers were “prohibited from photographing, taking videos, or taking
any other like pictorial representations of the Ward, or causing same to be
taken by other persons, without prior approval of this court.”
In her view, the audio recording violated “the spirit of this Order,” and
audio taping should be prohibited in the future along making with photos and
videotapes of Terri.
No decision was reached by the judge, who insisted there was no
emergency and the lawyers could get together this week to discuss their next
Contacted for comment, Bob Schindler described the hearing as a “complete fiasco” and expressed bitterness about learning of his daughter’s medical condition almost by accident.
“She went in on an emergency basis, so the first thing they should have done was to contact us,” he said. “Now Mary calls the hospice almost every day in the afternoon. She hadn’t called Wednesday, but she did phone Thursday at 3 o’clock. But what if she hadn’t? If she hadn’t called they’d probably never told us.”
Malanowski explained to WorldNetDaily why he felt it was necessary for him to visit Terri at the hospital without her parents, saying it was the first time in over two-and-a-half years he had done so.
He said he first learned of Terri’s situation Thursday evening, when
Schindler, who had just returned from visiting her at the hospital, called
to let him know.
“The first thought that came to my mind was it’s an emergency,” he
exclaimed. “She’s going to the hospital, Bob told me she had pneumonia, was
bleeding internally, and had an infection in the urinary tract. To me that
was an emergency, and we always respond to a hospital call right away. We go
and administer the sacraments. We don’t want the people to die without the
sacraments. I would consider that an emergency, so I went. It was the first
time I ever saw her without the parents. I’m only five blocks away from the
hospital, and I thought it was important that I would go even though it was
10:15 at night to provide these sacraments for Terri.”
Said Malanowski, “We automatically do it. When we get a call from a hospital
we don’t say, “Is she ill? Is she dying?” We just go, and that’s what I did.
That was Thursday night. Then Saturday at noon I met Mary and Bob and we
went together. Nobody questioned us, and that’s when we said our novena
prayers to St. Theresa for Terry.
Pat Anderson told WorldNetDaily that at the hearing she could hardly believe
she was in the United States.
“I felt like I was in another country when the judge expressed
reluctance, an inability really, to recognize that cutting Terri off
from the sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church was an emergency and a
violation of her First Amendment rights,” she exclaimed. “Now this judge is
Protestant and perhaps can’t be counted on to understand the significance of
the sacraments that Monsignor Malanowski is administering to Terri. But
Terri could have a health crisis tonight or tomorrow night, and there is no
Catholic priest to give her the sacraments,” she added.