Even though Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and state legislature yesterday halted the court-ordered starvation death of brain-damaged Terri Schindler-Schiavo, her family and legal counsel are afraid her life will be increasingly at risk as long as the courts allow her husband to remain her guardian and do not appoint a guardian ad litem as demanded by the special legislation that was passed.
“My greatest fear is that Michael [Schiavo] will order Terri out of the hospital before she is medically stabilized and rehydrated – as he did three times last August when she had pneumonia,” said Patricia Anderson, attorney for Terri’s parents, Robert and Mary Schindler.
“That is why we need a guardian ad litem,” she added. “That is what Terri’s Bill is about. We’ve got to have a guardian ad litem to put a stop to that kind of hijinks, because his primary objective is to kill her.”
Schiavo very nearly succeeded in his five-year quest to end his wife’s life by court-approved starvation. With only a few hours remaining before she slipped beyond the point where she could be saved, Florida lawmakers yesterday delivered to the governor legislation empowering him to order Schiavo’s feeding tube reinserted, and Bush signed the life-saving law as well as an implementing executive order.
“Terri’s Bill” specifically directs the chief judge (David Demers) of the 6th Judicial Circuit Court to appoint a guardian ad litem to represent Terri “upon issuance of a stay,” but he has not yet done so – which Anderson views as a matter of urgency.
“Terri will be out of danger only when Michael is no longer her guardian and no longer has access to her,” she said bluntly.
Crowds of demonstrators cheered wildly, as Terri was transferred by ambulance from Woodside Hospice in Pinellas Park, Fla., to Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater, about 25 miles away, where upon her feeding tube was reinserted and rehydration begun after her six days ordeal of judge-ordered starvation.
Family locked out
No sooner was his wife admitted to Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater, Fla., than Schiavo sent an order barring Terri’s parents and siblings from visiting her.
The Schindlers were not informed of Schiavo’s action, and only learned of it late that evening from Terri’s brother, who had driven to the hospital to visit his sister and was escorted from the premises by an armed security guard.
Bobby Schindler, 38, told WorldNetDaily he was told by the administrator on duty that Schiavo had left instructions that “no family members, not anybody is to visit Terri,” and that they were to be given no information about her medical condition.
Schindler was too exhausted by worry over the fate of his sister and the events of the past seven days to express anger. But he said he’s not surprised by this recent action by Schiavo.
“Michael’s been doing this kind of thing for almost as long as he’s been guardian of my sister,” he exclaimed. “It’s been going on for over a decade and it continues. Even after the governor stepped in and did what he did today, [Schiavo] continues to use his power as a weapon against our family and Terri.”
It’s one of many times her husband has ordered Terri isolated from family and those close to her. In mid-August, he barred a Roman Catholic priest from visiting her at Morton Plant Hospital where she was taken due to a sudden medical crisis.
Schiavo said his action that time was prompted by a late-evening visit by Monsignor Thaddeus Malanowski, a former Army chaplain, who had been asked by Terri’s father to drop by the hospital to see how she was faring.
Even though the monsignor was on a court-approved list of visitors and regularly visited her at the hospice where she has been a patient for three years, Schiavo had a long-standing policy that no one could visit Terri unaccompanied either by himself or family member and that Malanowski had knowingly violated his order.
Schiavo’s attorney Deborah Bushnell told WorldNetDaily that her client was concerned about Malanowski’s “integrity” and felt the 81-year-old priest was not “the kind of person that he wanted visiting Terri or that he felt comfortable visiting Terri.” Eventually he relented slightly and the monsignor was allowed to resume his visits subject to week-to-week approval by Schiavo.
Last Wednesday, the day Terri’s feeding tube was removed, Schiavo’s attorneys ordered family members barred from being alone with Terri at the hospice following Robert Schindler’s release to the media of a videotape distributed in evidence that the woman is not in a “persistent vegetative state,” as Schiavo’s advocates claim.
Schindler admitted the tape was made surreptitiously in violation of a court order by probate Judge George Greer of the Pinellas-County Circuit Court. The video, which shows Terri alert and laughing and trying to speak, further indicates attempts at rehabilitative therapy, also banned by the courts.
Following the video’s release, her family was told they were barred from visiting the dying woman “unless [Schiavo] or his representative is present.”
In at least one instance, the “representative” that accompanied Robert and Mary Schindler to the bedside of their daughter was none other than the mother of Schiavo’s mistress, Jodi Centonze, with whom he has been living for a number of years. He and Centonze have a 1-year-old daughter and are expecting a second child.
As WorldNetDaily reported, the Schindlers had been fighting their son-in-law for 10 years over the lack of care and therapy Schiavo as her guardian 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 ongoing dispute escalated five years ago when Schiavo petitioned the court for permission to end his wife’s life by removing her feeding tube, insisting she is in a “persistent vegetative state” and had told him years before she would not want to be maintained “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.
The Schindlers fought tenaciously to keep their daughter and the case alive in the courts, but they have been basically blocked at every turn, in particular by Greer, who has had charge of the case almost from the beginning. When the seven-member Florida Supreme Court in August turned down a petition to review the case, the way was clear for Schiavo to starve his wife to death.
On Sept. 17, Greer scheduled Oct. 15 as the day Terri’s feeding tube would be removed. At the same time, in separate rulings, he denied any rehabilitation for the disabled woman or a chance to be spoon-fed.
Information on Terri’s fight for life is posted on the family’s website.