Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has the authority and the legal obligation to use his executive powers to halt the death of Terri-Schindler-Schiavo and to launch a criminal investigation into the case, according to attorneys queried by the governor’s legal office yesterday.
“Not only does the governor have such power, but the governor has the constitutional duty to prevent any action taken pursuant to such a court order, because such action would violate Ms. Schindler-Schiavo’s constitutionally guaranteed ‘inalienable right to enjoy and defend life’ regardless of her ‘physical disability’ as secured by Article 1 Section 2 of the Florida State Constitution,” wrote constitutional attorney Herb Titus, of Chesapeake, Va., in a memorandum faxed to the governor’s legal office.
Titus, one of the constitutional experts contacted by the governor’s office, represents Judge Roy Moore in his battle over the 10 Commandments monument in Montgomery, Ala.
Attorney Richard Thompson, who heads the Thomas More Law Center, a public-interest law firm in Ann Arbor, Mich., noted in a letter that Terri is “a victim of abuse and neglect,” and under Florida law, “it is a crime to abuse or neglect a disabled adult” and to encourage another person to do so.
He further called on the governor to launch a full-scale criminal investigation into the circumstances of the case “and to take measures to prevent future harm to Ms. Schiavo pending the outcome of the investigation.”
Terri’s life-sustaining feeding tube was removed yesterday afternoon in compliance with a judge’s order as her mother and husband, Michael Schiavo, who demanded the removal, looked on. Although Terri is well into the second day of forced starvation, it’s not too late for Bush to take the woman into protective custody and halt the death process.
But the clock is ticking. Without food and water, doctors say the 39-year-old brain-disabled woman will die within seven to 14 days.
The documents were made public today at a noon press conference outside the Hospice of the Florida Sun Coast’s Woodside Facility in Pinellas Park, where Terri has resided since April 2000.
Bush has insisted that his hands are tied and Terri’s fate is “in the hands of the court.” However, he met yesterday morning with Terri’s parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, and assured them that if there were some way he could intervene he would do so, and she could have her feeding tube reinstalled.
Randall Terry, noted pro-life activist and founder of Operation Rescue, accompanied the Schindlers at their meeting with Bush.
Terry told WorldNetDaily, “We put the question to him: If there was a legal means for you to intervene and it did not violate the separation of powers, and you were in fact upholding your oath of office, would you do it? He said, ‘Yes. I would be very interested. Let us know.’”
Terry said there were “crews working all night, different law firms putting together legal briefs, memoranda of law showing that he does in fact have the constitutional authority, even the duty, to intervene on Terri’s behalf. So his legal people have all of those memoranda right now, and we’re just hoping and praying that he will step up to the plate, issue the order and rescue Terri.”
As WorldNetDaily reported, the Schindlers have been fighting with their son-in-law for 10 years over the lack of care and therapy Schiavo has provided for their daughter, who suffered massive brain damage when she collapsed at her home 13 years ago under mysterious circumstances at the age of 26.
The contentious family dispute escalated into a major euthanasia battle in May 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.
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 she will never regain consciousness. Despite a scarcity of expert testimony and evidence for Schiavo’s position, the Florida courts have consistently sided with him and attorney George Felos.
When the seven-member Florida Supreme Court in August turned down a petition by the Schindlers to review the case, the way was clear for Schiavo to order his wife starved to death.
On Sept. 17, Judge Greer scheduled Oct. 15 as the day Terri’s feeding tube would be removed.
The memoranda and other legal documents and information on Terri’s fight for life are posted on the family’s website.