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brewing over Terri's Law
Posted By Diana Lynne On 10/24/2003 @ 3:40 pm In Front Page | Comments Disabled
The Florida Supreme Court will be asked next week to consider the constitutionality of Terri’s Law, the emergency measure passed by Florida
lawmakers to empower Gov. Jeb Bush to order the feeding tube reinserted
into Terri Schindler-Schiavo.
No strangers to national controversy, the justices are at once credited and
condemned for rulings that ultimately determined the outcome of the 2000
presidential election between Democrat candidate Al Gore and Republican
George W. Bush.
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Gov. Jeb Bush
Now it’s the governing power of Bush’s brother, Jeb, that could face
scrutiny by the state’s high court, as attorney George Felos, who represents
Terri’s husband, Michael Schiavo, announces intentions to bring their case
before the court. Justices have already rejected three motions related to the
Felos, who calls Terri’s Law “absurdly unconstitutional,” believes he can
get a challenge before the court in three weeks. He has already mounted a
challenge to the law in circuit court in Clearwater, Fla.
“Individuals have a right to control their own body and the right to choose what medical treatment they want and what medical treatment they don’t want,” Felos previously told WorldNetDaily. “If you’ve made the decision that medical treatment is no longer a benefit for you and you don’t want it, then you do have the legal and constitutional right to refuse it. And I’m an advocate of allowing people to enforce that right.”
The right-to-die advocate held a press conference yesterday to counter
the rising tide of public outcry against his client’s efforts to end Terri’s life. The
governor’s office said it has received more than 165,000 e-mails and
thousands of calls in support of Terri and Bush’s intervention on her behalf.
“There’s a lot of angry people out there over what happened to Terri, and
what was done to Terri: being literally, under threat of arrest, yanked from her
deathbed and her death process,” Felos told reporters at the press conference
, according to WFTS. “Just in the last two days, I have received scores of
e-mails and calls of outrage over this act. Many people have contacted us
offering support, both material and in other ways.”
Defending Michael Schiavo against speculation over his motives for
wanting his wife dead, Felos insisted he was acting out of love and respect for
his wife’s desire to “die with dignity.”
“Who in God’s name would subject themselves to what he has gone
through for any other reason?” he said. “He always deeply loved her.”
Felos said there was no life insurance policy on Terri and Michael Schiavo
would not otherwise benefit financially from his wife’s death.
WorldNetDaily has reported Michael Schiavo won more than $1.2 million in
1992 that was to be earmarked for Terri’s care and therapy but was never
spent for that purpose.
Felos told reporters yesterday the sum in Terri’s trust fund had been
whittled down to $55,000. While he and Michael Schiavo’s other attorney, Deborah Bushnell, say they haven’t been paid in over a year, Felos was previously paid $358,434 out of the fund. Bushnell told the St. Petersburg Times she had been paid approximately $80,000 from the fund.
In a move that horrified Terri’s family last year, Bushnell also filed a petition
with probate Judge George Greer seeking authorization of pre-payment for Terri’s cremation and burial expenses out of the fund.
Pat Anderson, the attorney representing Terri’s parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, has filed multiple petitions seeking the removal of Michael Schiavo
as Terri’s guardian and chief decision maker. Among her arguments, she
claims Michael Schiavo misspent the medical funds.
“While exhausting Terri’s money for the purpose of killing her, not one red
cent could be found by Schiavo to enhance the quality of her life after receipt of the malpractice award. … [A]nd the expenditure of nothing for therapy that would reduce the pain of contractures, enhance Terri’s ability to swallow, or facilitate recovery of basic abilities is the grossest form of asset
mismanagement,” Anderson stated in a href="/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=29703">petition filed and rejected by Greer last November.
Terri responding to her mother in video clip available
WorldNetDaily has reported Terri sustained brain damage when she
mysteriously collapsed in 1990 at the age of 26 and oxygen was cut to her
brain for several minutes. The Schindlers have been fighting with their
son-in-law for 10 years over the fate of their daughter. He contends his wife is
in a persistent vegetative state and told him once she would not want to be
kept alive artificially. The Schindlers argue Terri is alert, responsive and
vocalizes and maintain she wants to live. She has no written directive on the
In an historic move earlier this week, Florida lawmakers crafted a narrowly
worded measure that authorized Bush to issue “a one-time stay to prevent the
withholding of nutrition and hydration from a patient” who meets criteria, which
apply to Terri.
Some legal scholars agree with Felos and believe the legislators and the
governor overstepped their bounds in defying the judicial system. They predict
the intervention will spark a constitutional showdown.
“Courts get to decide particular cases, not legislatures,” Steven Gey, a law professor at Florida State University, told the New York Times.
In 1995, the Supreme Court ruled Congress was prohibited from reopening final court decisions under the separation-of-powers doctrine.
Gey said Florida’s separation-of-powers law is “more rigid” than
Other scholars wonder whether the law encroaches on Michael Schiavo’s
constitutional right to privacy.
Still others ask about Terri’s rights as a brain-disabled woman who can’t
speak for herself.
reported constitutional expert Herb Titus maintains Bush had a legal
obligation to use his executive powers to halt Terri’s death.
“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,” Titus, of Chesapeake, Va., wrote in a memorandum faxed to the
governor’s legal office last week.
Titus represents suspended Chief Justice 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 an emergency letter sent to Bush the night Terri’s feeding tube was pulled 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.
Thompson called on Bush 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.”
In August, the Schindlers filed a federal lawsuit alleging Michael Schiavo and Felos “combined and conspired to deprive Terri of her constitutional and civil rights.”
The 24-page complaint alleged Michael Schiavo had forbidden medical professionals to provide his wife with any therapy or rehabilitation and had even attempted to hasten her death while she was a patient at the Pinellas Park, Fla., hospice he placed her in three years ago.
In a sworn affidavit, Carla Sauer Iyer, a registered nurse who cared for Terri from April 1995 until August of 1996 when she was fired after notifying the police about the case, stated Terri used to talk to her as much as she could and frequently used what sounded like the word “pain.” She also interpreted Terri’s vocalizing at times as crying “help me.”
While acknowledging she had no proof, Iyer said she suspects Michael Schiavo injected Terri, who normally has “very stable” blood sugar levels, with regular insulin to drive her into hypoglycemic shock during his visits.
“Terri would be trembling, crying hysterically and would be very pale and have cold sweats,” Iyer wrote. “So I’d check her blood sugar. The glucometer reading would be so low that it was below the range where it would register an actual number reading.”
Schiavo has repeatedly and strenuously denied allegations of abuse. Felos described the accusations as “a bunch of garbage.” He called caregivers’ claims Terri spoke to them “a fabrication.”
Updates and other information about Terri’s fight for life are posted on the
move to rescue Terri
her life now?
petition High Court
step in for Terri
video showing alert Terri
joins vigil for Terri Schiavo
woman scheduled to starve
in Schiavo lawsuit
starvation of disabled woman
considers Schiavo case
emergency hearing in Schiavo case
letter only a ‘good first step’
way for Schiavo starvation
from brain-damaged wife
bombshell: Terri trying to talk
launched for Terri Schiavo
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