A federal judge in Tampa, Fla., has ruled against Terri Schiavo, the 39-year-old brain-disabled woman, whose death by court-ordered starvation is scheduled to begin in four days. The ruling clears the way for her husband, Michael Schiavo, to remove the feeding tube his wife depends upon for food and hydration.
Bob and Mary Schindler (courtesy Bay News 9)
At the end of a three-and-a-half-hour hearing Friday afternoon, U.S. District Judge Richard A. Lazzara rejected a plea by Terri’s parents, Robert and Mary Schindler of Gulf Port, Fla., to assume federal jurisdiction over the case, refusing to acknowledge that her constitutional rights, in particular her 14th Amendment right to due process, had been violated.
He also rejected a request by the Schindlers for a temporary injunction on removing Terri’s feeding tube, until she has received sufficient therapy and training to enable her to be spoon-fed.
He granted a motion to dismiss the Schindlers’ petition made Monday by Schiavo’s attorney George Mr. Felos, a well-known “right-to-die” advocate.
The case was argued in court by Christopher Ferrara, of the American Catholic Lawyers Association, co-counsel with Patricia Anderson representing the Schindlers and Terri herself.
Pamela Hennessy, volunteer spokesperson for the Schindler family, attended the hearing and pulled no punches in comments to WorldNetDaily.
“I sat there in the courtroom, and it seemed that he cut off every other sentence Chris made. He interrupted him endlessly. I don’t think [Lazzara] let him finish too many sentences. I don’t think Chris was really heard.”
Gov. Jeb Bush
Not even the fact that the Florida Gov. Jeb Bush had stepped into the fight for Terri last week by filing a friend-of-the-court brief on her behalf impressed the judge, said Hennessy.
“[Lazzara] didn’t care,” she said. “He said the governor’s brief was well-written and he allowed him to be admitted as a friend of the court, but he said that [Bush] was only a friend of the court and had no power to intervene.”
Hennessey took umbrage at the notion that as a federal judge he cannot take jurisdiction.
“Of course he can,” she exclaimed. “[Terri's] constitutional rights have been denied. He could have stepped in, but nope – he washed his hands of it, he didn’t want to get involved at all.”
Michael Schiavo (Photo: WFLA-TV)
As WorldNetDaily reported, the Schindlers have been fighting with their son-in-law Michael Schiavo for 10 years over the lack of care and therapy Schiavo has provided for their daughter, who suffered massive brain damage when, at the age of 26, she collapsed at her home 13 years ago under mysterious circumstances.
The contentious family dispute escalated into a major euthanasia battle in 1998 when Schiavo petitioned the Florida courts for permission to end his wife’s life by disconnecting her feeding tube, insisting she is in a “persistent vegetative state” and that in casual conversations she had told him she would not want to be kept alive “artificially.” Although Terri breathes on her on and maintains her own blood pressure, she requires a simple tube into her abdomen to her stomach for nourishment and hydration.
Terri Schindler-Schiavo before her disability.
Although Terri’s parents and siblings have claimed for years that she recognizes them and tries to talk – and over a dozen prominent doctors and therapists have stated under oath that she is not in a persistent vegetative state and with therapy could be rehabilitated – a handful of doctors have testified she is “vegetative.” They claim her expressions and vocalizations are simply reflex actions and that she will never regain consciousness. Despite a scarcity of expert testimony and evidence for Schiavo’s position, Greer and Florida’s appellate courts have consistently sided with him and Felos, his attorney.
When the seven-member Florida Supreme Court washed its hands of the matter in August by turning down an appeal by the Schindlers to review the case, the way was clear for Schiavo to starve his wife to death.
On Sept. 17, probate Judge George Greer, of the Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court, scheduled Oct. 15 as the day Terri’s feeding tube would be removed.
At the same time but in separate rulings, Greer – who has been in charge of the case from almost the beginning – denied any rehabilitation whatsoever for the disabled woman. An Aug. 26 request by the Schindlers asking that their daughter be allowed an eight-week trial of speech, occupational and physical therapy, was summarily rejected by Greer along with a motion made Sept. 10 that she be taught to swallow food so she could be spoon-fed.
With the state courts closed against them, the Schindlers sued their son-in-law in federal court to block the scheduled Oct. 15 removal of their daughter’s feeding tube. In their Sept. 22 request for a preliminary injunction, they asked Judge Lazzara that Terri be given therapy for a sufficient time to wean her off her feeding tube and return her to nutrition by mouth.
Friday’s ruling by Lazzara has destroyed that opportunity and the hopes of Terri’s family and supporters that she would be allowed to live.
Terri’s feeding tube is scheduled to be removed at 2 p.m. Wednesday. Physicians say her slow death by starvation and dehydration will take anywhere from seven to 14 days.
The Schindlers and their attorneys were unavailable for comment.
Legal documents and information on Terri’s fight for life are posted on the family’s website.