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Judge rules against Schiavo's parents
Posted By Sarah Foster On 03/30/2004 @ 10:54 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled
A Florida probate judge has again ruled against the parents of Terri Schindler-Schiavo, the brain-disabled Florida woman whose estranged husband, Michael Schiavo, is trying to end her life by removing her feeding tube.
In a brief ruling released late yesterday afternoon, Judge George Greer refused to hold Schiavo in contempt of court for not keeping Bob and Mary Schindler apprised of their daughter’s health as he is compelled to do under the terms of a 1996 court order by another probate judge, Thomas Penick.
Terri responding to her mother in video clip available on terrisfight.org
Mary Schindler told WorldNetDaily she was disappointed but not surprised by the ruling.
“There’s no way in this world [Greer] will find Michael in contempt of court because if he does, [Schiavo] would have to be removed as guardian, and I don’t see that happening,” she said.
The ruling came on the heels of a Friday hearing in which Greer announced he needed time to “interpret” what Penick meant in his order.
As WorldNetDaily reported, last month attorney Patricia Anderson, representing the Schindlers in their ongoing legal battle with Schiavo, filed a “show cause” motion in Pinellas County Circuit Court, asking the court to force Schiavo to explain why he should not be held in contempt for ignoring a 1996 court order that requires him to inform the Schindlers of any significant changes in Terri’s medical condition.
The order further directs Schiavo to notify in writing any nursing home where his wife is placed that he has no objection to the staff discussing her medical condition with her parents. Schiavo, who is Terri’s guardian as well as her husband, has ignored the order for eight years and no court has held him to account.
Terri Schindler-Schiavo before her disability
The filing of contempt charges was prompted by the Schindlers learning from a nurse that Terri had suffered bouts of vomiting and that Schiavo had directed the staff of the Park Side Clearwater Assisted Living Facility not to discuss the incapacitated woman’s health with her family.
“Michael Schiavo’s flagrant violation of the simple and understandable terms of the 1996 Order is deliberate and contumacious,” Anderson wrote. “[His] conduct demonstrates a complete disregard for his duties under the 1996 Order toward the Court and toward the Schindlers.”
A hearing on the motion to show cause was postponed twice at the request of Schiavo’s attorneys and not held until March 26, nearly a month after the original filing.
Michael Schiavo (Photo: WFLA-TV)
Schiavo did not attend Friday’s hearing.
The Schindlers say it went much as they expected. The family’s position was presented by David Gibbs of the Gibbs Law Firm of Seminole, Fla., who is working with Anderson on the case. Deborah Bushnell and Scott Swope, who represented Schiavo, told Greer the Schindlers were receiving “sufficient information” through attorneys, “but they always want more.”
Mary Schindler speaks out
In a sworn affidavit submitted before the hearing, Mary slammed her son-in-law for blocking her and Robert from receiving news about their daughter, detailing how what little information they receive is slipped to them by nurses who, if discovered, would very likely lose their jobs. Indeed, the entire incident of the vomiting had to be pieced together from nurses who admitted fearing retaliation.
“I am concerned that Michael has regularly blocked both my husband and me from being given reports of Terri’s medical condition from her caregivers,” Mary stated. “We are also concerned that those wonderful caregivers who from time to time have given us such medical information over the years, out of compassion for our desperate situation, have sometimes risked their jobs to give us this information against contrary orders from Michael Schiavo.”
“My husband and I do not trust either the accuracy or completeness of any medical information that is given to us by Michael through his attorneys,” she declared. “Such information has not been provided to us in a timely manner and it often directly contradicts what little we do know.”
As an example, Mary explained that on Feb. 17 Pat Anderson asked George Felos, another of Schiavo’s attorneys, specific medical questions about the recent vomiting.
“Mr. Felos’ only response was that ‘[Terri's doctor] has been informed about Terri’s vomiting, and would be visiting her (if he hadn’t done so already),’” Mary Schindler said. “This did not answer the specific medical questions we had about a situation that could have been immediately life threatening to Terri. Subsequent requests have also not been complete and are sometimes contradictory to what we know or what we see when we visit Terri.”
Facing the threat of possible contempt-of-court charges, Schiavo wrote a long-overdue letter to the staff at Park Place saying he had no objection if they discussed Terri’s condition with her parents.
But the nurses still refuse to divulge anything, forcing Mary to conclude: “Based on our previous experiences, we are concerned that despite Michael’s letter [to the staff] and the  Court Order, Michael may still be giving Terri’s caregivers verbal orders not to tell either me or Terri’s father anything about her medical condition.”
No personal knowledge
After mulling the issue for a weekend, Greer ruled that since Mary had not revealed the names of the nurses her observations were based on “hearsay” – that is, the nurses had relayed to her what Schiavo had said, and therefore she did not have “personal knowledge.”
Probate Judge George Greer (Photo: Bay News 9)
Greer denied the Schindlers’ motion “without prejudice,” meaning they can try again to bring contempt charges against Schiavo.
The judge’s ruling is the latest rejection of pleas by Terri’s family in their long legal battle over whether Terri should be allowed to live, which is what her parents and siblings want, or starved and dehydrated to death in accordance with her estranged husband’s wishes.
As WorldNetDaily has reported, Terri collapsed under unexplained circumstances in February 1990 at the age of 26. Oxygen to her brain was cut off for several minutes, leaving her severely brain-disabled and dependant upon a feeding tube for nourishment.
Schiavo insists his wife told him years before her collapse she would never want to be kept alive “through artificial means,” and four years ago he convinced probate Judge George Greer to allow him to remove her feeding tube. Terri’s parents don’t believe Terri ever made the statements attributed to her and through a series of legal maneuvers have managed to keep the case and their daughter alive. Their options appeared to have run out last year when the 2nd District Court of Appeal made a final ruling in Schiavo’s favor and the Florida Supreme Court refused to hear the case.
In October, Terri endured six days without nourishment and hydration before Florida lawmakers passed “Terri’s Law” allowing Gov. Jeb Bush to intervene and order her feeding tube reinserted, an action immediately challenged by Schiavo’s attorney, George Felos, as unconstitutional. That case is being litigated.
Information, including court filings, are posted on the Schindler family website.
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