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'Exit protocol' for brain-disabled woman?

A Federal District Court judge in Tampa has scheduled an emergency hearing in the case of Terri Schindler-Schiavo, a
disabled woman whose husband has petitioned the courts to end her life by the removal of her feeding tube.

The hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2003, at the Federal Courthouse in Tampa.

The five-year legal battle over whether Schindler-Schiavo should be allowed to live or forced to die of starvation took another turn yesterday when Michael Schiavo ordered his wife Terri removed from a hospital where she is being treated for a severe infection.

Terri Schindler-Schiavo before her disability.

The move back to a hospice where the Florida woman has lived for more than three years could lead to her death, a family spokeswoman told WorldNetDaily.

“The family is very concerned Terri won’t be properly cared for at the hospice and won’t make it through the weekend,” said Pamela Hennessey.

Terri still is reported to be “extremely congested and at least a bit feverish,” Hennessey said.

The Schindler family fears this move is intended as an “exit protocol,” with the intention of hastening her death, Hennessey said in a just-issued statement.

“There can’t be any way Terri was well enough to leave the hospital,” Terri’s sister Suzanne Schindler-Carr told Hennessey. “She’s still such a very sick girl.”

It was the second such crisis in less than two weeks and the most recent development in the ongoing battle between Terri’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, and their son-in-law that began with his efforts to remove the feeding tube Terri depends upon for sustenance.

Michael Schiavo (Photo: WFLA-TV)

According to documents filed with the court, Terri was transferred Sunday from the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast to the emergency room of Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater, Fla., because of vomiting, fever, coughing and severe diarrhea. Tests revealed lung congestion and an elevated white blood cell count, indicating a “substantial infection.”

The Schindler’s attorney, Patricia Anderson, said a federal statute prohibits an institution from discharging a person before they’ve been stabilized medically. But a patient can always discharge himself against medical advice.

“Since Michael Schiavo is Terri’s legal guardian, he can do that, and that’s what he’s doing,” said Anderson.

By order of an appeals court, Judge George Greer of Florida’s 6th Circuit Court will hold a hearing Sept. 11 to set a date for removing the feeding tube, which would lead to starvation within 10 to 14 days.

Schiavo’s request to order Terri returned to the hospice was faxed to Greer yesterday by his legal representative, right-to-die attorney George Felos, and is the second attempt this week to ensure his wife receives no medical treatment.

The day following her readmission to Morton Plant, Felos filed papers asking the court to order all treatment for Terri stopped “other than comfort care” for her infection and any additional medical problems that might arise.

In an emergency motion faxed Monday afternoon to Greer, Felos argued that since the courts of Florida had approved the removal of her feeding tube, death by starvation was a foregone conclusion and there was no need to intervene.

“Given the imminence of the ward’s death, further treatment (other than comfort care) for the ward’s infection and other medical problems is unnecessary, unwarranted, inappropriate, and futile,” he declared.

He also requested an “immediate hearing” to set the date for removal of Terri’s feeding tube.

Judge Greer denied the motion Tuesday, stating such a determination would require a hearing, but endorsed Schiavo’s request to return her to the hospice.

As WorldNetDaily reported, the Schindlers have been locked in a decade-long battle with their son-in-law over the care and custody of their daughter, who suffered massive brain damage when she collapsed at their home 13 years ago under unexplained circumstances at the age of 26.

The bitter dispute over Terri’s quality of care erupted five years ago into a full-blown euthanasia battle when Schiavo petitioned the court for permission to have her feeding removed, claiming she is in a persistent vegetative state 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 that with therapy she could be rehabilitated, but the courts have consistently sided with Schiavo and attorney George Felos.

This current emergency medical crisis was essentially a replay of events two weeks ago when Terri was taken to Morton Plant because she was coughing up blood and appeared to have aspiration pneumonia. She was returned to the hospice less than a week later, before she had fully recovered.

As before, the Schindlers have not been apprised of their daughter’s condition, despite a 1996 court order in which Schiavo agreed to inform the Schindlers of any changes in his wife’s physical condition.

The Schindlers learned about Terri’s emergency transfer from the hospice to the hospital Monday morning, hours after the fact. Not until their attorney Patricia Anderson received a fax from George Felos informing her of Terri’s sudden crisis did they have any information.

Pamela Hennessey recalled last Monday’s events for WorldNetDaily.

“As soon as they heard, her parents went immediately to the hospital and to the admissions section, and the first thing admissions said was there’s no one here by that name,” said Hennessey.

“Then they did confirm she was there, but did not tell them what room she was in, Hennessey continued. “So the Schindlers had to carry on for at least an hour before they found out where Terri even was. They never got any indication of her condition, diagnosis, prognosis, nothing. And they still haven’t. All they know is Terri has a massive infection and fever.”

Anderson reports Mary Schindler has been with her daughter every day, all day until 8 p.m., when hospital rules dictate they must leave. Bob Schindler says she holds Terri in her arms, and when they started to leave, Terri’s eyes fill with tears.

‘Exit protocol’?

Terri’s current medical crisis drew the attention of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who said he was “disturbed” by rumors about Schiavo’s actions related to Terri’s current care. In his letter to Greer Tuesday requesting a delay in removal of Terri’s feeding tube until certain issues are investigated, Bush called specific attention to Schiavo’s request to disallow treatment.

“It has come to my attention that Mrs. Schiavo has contracted a life-threatening illness and that she may be denied appropriate treatment,” the governor wrote. “If true, this indicates a decision by her caregivers to initiate an ‘exit protocol’ that may include withholding treatment from Mrs. Schiavo until her death, which would render this court’s ultimate decision moot.”

Bush urged Greer to ensure that “no act of omission or commission be allowed to adversely affect Mrs. Schiavo’s health before the September 11th hearing you have set. No one involved should be permitted to circumvent due process or the court’s authority in order to achieve personal objectives in this case.”

Terri’s family has posted background information and news about her situation on a website

Previous stories

Attorney: Jeb Bush letter only a ‘good first step’

Gov. Bush’s plea for Schindler-Schiavo rejected

Jeb Bush intervenes for Schindler-Schiavo

Schindler-Schiavo on ‘death row’

Husband bars priest from brain-damaged wife

Brain-damaged woman hospitalized

Terri trying to talk

Petition drive launched for Terri Schiavo

Judge: Remove woman’s feeding tube