The parents of Terri Schiavo asked a court yesterday to void an order to remove the brain-damaged Florida woman’s feeding tube, arguing she has been denied due process of law.
The new attorneys for Robert and Mary Schindler say that in their review of the boxes of court filings from the decade-long case, they can’t find a single instance in which “Terri was afforded the right of every American to have a lawyer who would represent her own interests.”
“Her parents have an attorney. Her husband has an attorney; but Terri has never had an attorney who could attempt to communicate with her and could represent her interests while her parents and husband battle over whether she should live or die,” said attorney David Gibbs III in a statement.
Schiavo has lived in a Pinellas County hospice facility for nearly five years while her husband and guardian Michael Schiavo awaits permission from the county court to remove her feeding tube, which would result in death by starvation and dehydration.
The new motion argues that the courts have applied the wrong law to statements Terri allegedly made in the mid-1980s that she would not want to live on life support.
Her parents insist Terri never made such statements, but Gibbs says, “even if she did, in the 1980s under Florida law, assisted feeding was not considered to be life support.”
The Schindlers’ attorneys also argue the courts in this case have violated the constitutional separation of powers.
By acting as judge, law-maker, and proxy-guardian, the court is intruding into the roles of the legislative and executive branches of the Florida government, the motion says. In so doing, it has shed the neutral and objective judicial function to which Schiavo is entitled and which is required by law.
As WorldNetDaily reported, despite the widely believed claims of her husband, Terri Schiavo is purposefully interactive, curious and expressive with her parents, according to Gibbs and attorney Barbara Weller, who visited Terri Christmas Eve.
Weller concluded Schiavo was so alert that she “should have been gathered around the Christmas dinner table enjoying the holiday with her family.”
Not knowing what to expect prior to the visit, Weller said in a narrative posted on the family website she “prepared for the possibility that the Schindlers love their daughter and sister so much that they might imagine behaviors by Terri that aren’t actually evident to others.”
But she was “very surprised” to find that, “From the moment we entered the room, my impression was that Terri was very purposeful and interactive and she seemed very curious about the presence of obvious strangers in her room.”
As WorldNetDaily has reported, Terri collapsed in 1990 in the couple’s St. Petersburg apartment. For reasons never satisfactorily explained, oxygen to her brain was cut off for several minutes, leaving her unable to talk and dependent on a feeding tube for food and hydration at the age of 26.
In a 2000 trial, Michael Schiavo persuaded Florida probate Judge George Greer that Terri is in a “persistent vegetative state,” which in the absence of a written directive, allowed Michael Schiavo to request removal of her feeding tube.
In November, however, Greer ruled the tube cannot be removed until the Schindlers have exhausted all avenues in their quest for a new trial to determine whether or not their daughter would want to be starved to death.
Michael Schiavo insists he simply is carrying out his wife’s wishes, but Terri’s parents contend Terri is alert, has a strong will to live and could be significantly rehabilitated with aggressive therapy. More than a dozen physicians, therapists and speech pathologists have stepped forward to state agreement with the Schindlers.
The parents also assert Michael Schiavo’s interests are conflicted since he has lived with another woman for at least nine years with whom he has had two children.
Court documents and other information are posted on the Schindler family website.
Links to all “Terri briefs” regarding the governor’s defense of Terri’s Law are on the Florida Supreme Court website, public information.