Terri Schiavo with her mother in 2001
After a flurry of legal maneuvers, a Florida judge extended a stay preventing the husband of brain-damaged Terri Schiavo from removing the feeding tube keeping her alive.
Pinellas Circuit Court Judge George Greer had ordered an emergency stay yesterday after Florida’s 2nd Court of Appeal allowed another stay – husband Michael Schiavo’s last legal obstacle – to expire.
Greer extended the emergency stay to 5 p.m. Friday so he can determine whether Terri Schiavo needs additional medical tests. Her parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, had filed a motion to seek tests, utilizing new technology, to support their claim Terri’s condition can be improved with physical therapy.
The Schindlers also want to remove their son-in-law as her guardian.
Additionally, family spokesman Gary McCullough told WorldNetDaily the state Department of Children and Families, which probes abuse of disabled people, gave notice of its intent to intervene in the case due to allegations of abuse against Terri Schiavo by her husband.
Greer did not comment, but noted the request had been filed.
Michael Schiavo claims his wife had told him she would never want to be kept alive in such a state. She issued no written directive, but Florida law allows admission of alleged oral statements.
The estranged husband is living with another woman with whom he has two children but refuses to give up guardianship and divorce Terri, as the Schindlers have requested.
Noted “right-to-die” attorney George Felos, who is representing Michael Schiavo, argued in court today that the question of guardianship was irrelevant, because regardless of who had that role, the court has ruled that Terri’s wishes were that she not live in her current condition.
The Schindlers argue Michael Schiavo has prevented his wife from receiving therapy that could enable her to eat without the feeding tube. Terri breathes on her own and appears to be responsive to people and her surroundings in photographs and videos released by the family.
McCullough, who attended the hearing, said the Schindlers are “thanking God and all the people who have been praying,” for the additional 48 hours in which their daughter’s life is “not going to be at risk.”
The Schindler family says there is evidence Terri’s sudden brain injury Feb. 25, 1990, resulted from trauma at the hands of her husband. Michael Schiavo claims is wife collapsed due to a potassium imbalance – likely triggered by bulimia – that caused her to suffer cardiac arrest.
The Schindlers’ attorney, David Gibbs, has said he plans to file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on religious liberty grounds, asserting Terri’s rights as a Catholic would be violated by forcing her to starve to death.
In October 2003, Terri went without food or water for six days before a new state law allowed Gov. Jeb Bush to order the tube reinserted. “Terri’s Law” later was struck down by the the Florida Supreme Court as unconstitutional.
This afternoon, Bush told reporters he’s exploring options to block removal of the tube.
“I can assure you, I will do whatever I can within the means, within the laws, of our state to protect this woman’s life,” he said. “I won’t go beyond that.”
Bush noted he’s received thousands of e-mails and phone calls from backers of the Schindlers.
“People with deep faith and big hearts are concerned, as I am about the circumstance that Ms. Schiavo is in,” he said. “I want them to know I will do what I can, but there are limits to what any particular person — irrespective of the title they currently hold — can do.”
The Schindlers asked pro-life activist Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, to lobby the governor and legislature in Tallahassee to pass legislation that would require courts and doctors to give food and water to an incapacitated patient unless the patient had requested otherwise in an advance directive.
A bill sponsored by state Rep. Dennis Baxley is in the works, according to the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper.
“I feel like we’re at a juncture where all of the legal options need to be looked at,” Baxley said.
Terry led picketers today in a protest at the home of Michael Schiavo. The activist at one point had a brief conversation with Schiavo as police looked on, according to the Associated Press.
“I just spoke with him very briefly and asked him to please let Terri live, give her back to mom and dad,” Terry said. “He said, ‘Mr. Terry, I don’t want to talk to you. I don’t want you on my property. Good day.'”
The Schindlers, including Terri’s brother and sister, have begun a 24-hour prayer vigil, along with pro-life advocates, outside the Woodside Hospice in St. Petersburg where their daughter lives.
If Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube is removed, she is expected to die in about seven to 10 days.
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.