One day before Terri Schindler Schiavo’s court-ordered starvation is set to begin, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s office says it can do nothing more to save the brain-disabled woman’s life.
“This is in the court’s hands,” Bush’s press secretary Alia Faraj told WorldNetDaily. “Our government has committed these decisions to the judicial branch, and we must respect that process.”
Gov. Jeb Bush
Faraj noted Bush presented his opinion on this case twice, in “fulfillment of his duty to make sure the laws are faithfully followed.
As WorldNetDaily reported, Bush wrote a letter to the probate judge who ordered Terri’s feeding tube be removed and filed a friend-of-the-court brief in an unsuccessful motion to bring the case under federal jurisdiction.
The governor felt compelled, Faraj explained, “to present an opinion on this very difficult matter involving the rights of one of the state’s most vulnerable citizens.”
“But we do have to respect the separation of powers,” she emphasized. “The courts have made their decision.”
As WorldNetDaily reported, Terri’s parents, Robert and Mary Schindler have been locked in a decade-long legal struggle 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.
Five years ago, Schiavo petitioned the court for permission to remove his wife’s feeding tube, claiming she is in a “persistent vegetative state” and had told him years ago she would not want to be kept alive “by tubes” and “artificial” means. Although Terri breathes on her own and maintains her own blood pressure, she requires a simple tube into her abdomen to her stomach for nourishment and hydration.
Last Friday, a federal judge in Tampa, Fla., refused to take jurisdiction of a lawsuit filed by the Schindlers to take over guardianship from Schiavo, clearing the way to remove the feeding tube.
Bob and Mary Schindler (courtesy Bay News 9)
The Schindlers also sought a temporary injunction to delay removing the tube until Terri could receive sufficient therapy and training to enable her to be spoon-fed.
In his ruling Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Richard A. Lazzara said Gov. Bush’s input was only a friend-of-the court brief, and he had no power to intervene.
Fighting to the end
Vowing to fight to the end, Robert Schindler has urged Gov. Bush to intervene by ordering Florida’s Department of Children and Families to investigate whether Michael Schiavo mistreated and withheld therapy from Terri. Schiavo denies those charges.
The basis for that request is the suggestion of some attorneys that Gov. Bush, as the state’s chief executive, can order the DCF to carry out its statutory authority to remove a guardian in an emergency situation, according to Florida statute Title III, Chapter 415, Section 105 (2).
That statute allows intervention if the state has “reasonable cause to believe that a vulnerable adult is suffering from abuse or neglect that presents a risk of death or serious physical injury to the vulnerable adult and that the vulnerable adult lacks the capacity to consent to emergency protective services.”
The agency can forcibly enter a private premise to carry out its duties.
Bush’s spokeswoman, Faraj, maintained, however, the governor does not have the authority to order such an intervention, restating that the courts have made their decision.
Bill Spann, a spokesman for the Department of Children and Families, would not answer directly whether the agency has the statutory power to intervene at this point in the process, stating only “the issue has already been decided by the courts of the state of Florida.”
At a press conference today at the Pinellas Park, Fla., hospice where Terri resides, the Schindlers claimed they have evidence that shows “beyond any reasonable doubt that Terri is the victim of gross neglect by her caregivers, and may provide the grounds for Governor Bush to intervene on her behalf.”
Could such evidence prompt the DCF to respond?
“The issue has been decided,” Spann told WND. “Any new evidence would have to be vetted through the appropriate legal channels.”
Pamela Hennessy, spokeswoman for the Schindlers, told WND the governor’s office probably is correct when it says it cannot intervene in a case in which a judge has jurisdiction. But she contends the DCF’s division of adult protective services has an obligation to protect the ward of a guardian.
“They are a state welfare agency that deals with the well being of children and familes,” she said. “To say they have no jurisdiction to investigate allegations of abuse simply because a judge doesn’t remove a guardian is bogus.”
She said, for example, “If I knocked my son’s teeth down his throat, they would put an emergency guardian on him and investigate.”
A formal complaint against Michael Schiavo was filed with the DCF about two years ago, Hennessy said. An investigation was carried out and the resulting report was given to Circuit Judge George W. Greer, but he did not allow it to be read it court.
Meanwhile, a well-known pro-life activist is leading a 24-hour vigil in front of the hospice where Terri resides.
Randall Terry, who headed Operation Rescue in the 1980s, insists Bush does have the power to intervene, contending along with her parents and many witnesses, Terri has responded to therapy, communicated verbally and physically with her family and is not in a “persistent vegetative state.”
Therefore her husband is in “dereliction of his duty,” Terry concluded.
“Are you telling me that the chief executive officer of a state does not have the authority to save someone’s life?” he asked in an interview with WND. “That he has to bow his knee to a tin-pot judge?”
The Schindlers’ legal team said a last-minute emergency motion filed to block removal of the feeding tube was denied today by the 2nd District Court of Appeals in Lakeland, Fla.
The motion, arguing Terri deserves therapy to determine whether she can swallow on her own, previously was denied by Judge Greer.
The case has been denied twice by the Florida Supreme Court and also has been rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Legal documents and information on Terri’s case are posted on the family’s website.