Doctors removed Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube carrying out her estranged husband’s requested court order allowing the brain-damaged woman to starve to death over the objections of her parents.
Terri Schiavo responding to her mother in video clip available
Barring an intervention, Terri Schiavo is expected to live another week to 10 days.
Reports conflict over whether Michael Schiavo was present when the tube was removed. A spokesman for Michael Schiavo told BayNews9 TV in Tampa, Fla., Michael Schiavo was in attendance, that a prayer service was held first and then Michael called him after doctors completed their work.
“He was hard to understand,” said John Centonze, the brother of Michael Schiavo’s live-in fiance Jodi Centonze, with whom Schiavo has two children.
“He was pretty emotional, upset and crying about it,” said John Centonze. “You know, he still loves her. That was the love of his life.”
However, Michael Schiavo’s attorney, right-to-die advocate George Felos, told reporters at a news conference televised by WFTS-TV that a “representative of Michael Schiavo” was present in his stead.
Michael Schiavo, who has been living with Jodi Centonze for 10 years, has said he will marry her after his wife’s death.
The tube removal came after a Florida judge blocked an eleventh-hour end-run waged by members of House and Senate panels, ruling the device can be removed immediately.
Early this morning, the House Government Reform Committee decided to launch an investigation into the case and issued subpoenas that order doctors and the administrator at the hospice facility in Pinellas Park, Fla., where the severely brain-damaged woman resides not to remove her feeding tube and keep her alive until the investigation is complete.
At the same time, the Senate Health Committee also requested Terri and Michael Schiavo appear at an official committee hearing on March 28.
As a result, minutes before the 1 p.m. EST deadline for the tube removal passed Pinellas Circuit Court Judge David Demers ordered the feeding tube remain in place while presiding Judge George Greer addresses the matter of the congressional subpoenas in a court hearing.
But an hour later, Greer disregarded the subpoenas and again ordered the feeding tube pulled.
“I have heard no cogent reason why the committee should be able to intervene,” Greer told attorneys in a conference call, according to WFTS-TV. “I don’t think legislative agencies or bodies have business in the court’s proceedings.”
House committee members have appealed Greer’s ruling to an appellate court in Florida.
The House subpoenas were issued to Terri Schiavo, her husband, two of her attending physicians, and the hospice administrator. They directed the recipients to appear at the hospice facility to give testimony to House committee members on March 25 at 10 a.m. EST.
“No things including those things reflecting data, information, or records called for by this request shall be destroyed, modified, transferred, disconnected, discontinued, or otherwise made inaccessible to the Committee,” the subpoenas read, according to Fox News, which means the feeding tube must stay in place for another week.
Ignoring the subpoenas would amount to being in contempt of Congress and would incur penalties of fines and/or imprisonment. It is unclear, however, if such penalties would hold in the face of a conflicting court order.
“This inquiry should give hope to Terri, her parents and friends and the millions of people throughout the world who are praying for her safety,” House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Government Reform chairman Tom Davis said in a joint statement announcing the investigation this morning. “This fight is not over.”
“Terri Schiavo is alive. She’s not just barely alive. She’s not being kept alive. She is as alive as you and I. And as such, we have a moral obligation to protect and defend her from the fate premeditated by the Florida courts,” Delay told reporters in a press conference this afternoon. “Terri Schiavo will not be foresaken.”
News of the congressional intervention was hailed by some three dozen protesters gathered outside Woodside Hospice for a prayer vigil in support of Terri and her family.
“Bob and Mary Schindler have been praying for a miracle to save their daughter. We believe right now the miracle may come from … these actions taken by the United States Congress,” said David Gibbs, the attorney representing Terri’s parents. “We believe Terri’s is a life worth living.”
Gibbs said he also asked a federal judge in Tampa to block the removal and review the actions of state courts.
Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Florida office, told the Associated Press his group’s attorneys were working with Michael Schiavo’s attorneys to assess the effect of the subpoenas.
“This is clearly an effort to circumvent a lawful court order by a state judge,” Simon said, according to the AP. “I am not sure how a subpoena, which is ordinarily done to produce records or somebody to testify, can essentially have the effect of an injunction overriding the orders of a court.”
Felos called the congressional subpoenas “odious,” “disgusting,” and “nothing short of thuggery.”
At the press conference he blasted members of the House and Senate committees for their “shocking” intervention: “Be ashamed. Wear your shame for what you did and atone for it. Because to trample on her rights as you did was shameful.”
“To think that your parent or loved one could be in a nursing home … and a congressman can issue a subpoena forcing you to have your loved one treated against your will is absolutely shocking and just the lowest form of political strong-arming,” Felos added.
The efforts by the House and Senate panels come as lawmakers in both Washington and Tallahassee failed in their attempts to pass legislation to block Michael Schiavo from having the tube pulled over the objections of her parents.
WorldNetDaily reported yesterday, Florida’s state House passed a bill 78-37 that would block withholding of food and water from patients in a persistent vegetative state who didn’t leave a written directive.
Terri Schiavo has no written directive.
A similar measure in the Senate was rejected, however, 21-16.
Also yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would delay removal of Schiavo’s feeding tube by moving such a case to federal court. Senate Democrats blocked the legislation, but Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said he would try to pass a separate bill. Lawmakers have postponed their Easter break in order to work on the legislation.
“If you’re going to put somebody to death, or have them starved to death, I would think that you would want a complete neurological exam in reaching that conclusion,” Frist said on the Senate floor. “In fact — this is what I’m told — that she hasn’t had an MRI or PET scan which suggests she has not had a full neurological exam.”
Michael Schiavo won a court order in 2000 to have his wife’s feeding tube removed, claiming she was in a “persistent vegetative state” and had declared orally she wouldn’t want to live in such a condition.
The Schindlers, however, insist their daughter, while severely handicapped, is responsive and demonstrates a strong will to live. Their opinion is buttressed by nearly a dozen sworn affidavits signed by physicians disputing Terri remains in PVS.
Terri Schiavo is not hooked up to any machines, but she requires the small feeding tube for nourishment and hydration.
When her feeding tube was removed in 2003 for the second time, Terri Schiavo endured six days before “Terri’s Law” enabled Gov. Jeb Bush to intervene.
“Terri’s Law” was later ruled unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court, which said it violated the legal separation between the three branches of government.
Terri Schiavo before suffering severe brain damage in 1990.
Schiavo, 41, collapsed under disputed circumstances Feb. 25, 1990, suffering severe brain damage when her heart stopped momentarily. Michael Schiavo attributes the collapse to an eating disorder, but the Schindlers strongly suspect he tried to strangle her.
The Schindlers have pleaded with Michael Schiavo to divorce their daughter, pointing out his live-in relationship with another woman, with whom he has two children.
The House committee’s investigation may cover ground Florida’s social services agency sought to explore. As WND reported, Greer blocked a request made earlier this month by the Department of Children and Families to investigate alleged abuse by Terri’s estranged husband, who serves as her guardian.
DCF filed a petition containing 30 new allegations of “abuse, neglect or exploitation” the agency said came through its anonymous abuse hot line. The accusations include failure to investigate experimental medical procedures, denial of legal counsel, lack of communication and visitation and lack of therapy.
Felos said the DCF’s attemp to intervene “reeks of political arm-twisting.”
The Schindlers have long sought the removal of Michael Schiavo as Terri’s guardian. Among the family’s complaints are that Michael Schiavo:
- Has not allowed therapy or rehabilitation since 1992, despite medical records indicating Terri is responsive.
- Has prevented swallowing tests or swallowing therapy since 1993, despite medical testimony Terri can be taught to eat.
- Ordered caretakers not to clean Terri’s teeth since 1995, resulting in removal of five teeth in April 2004.
- Placed Terri in hospice in 2000, despite the fact she is not terminally ill.
- Refuses to allow Terri to leave her room. She has not been outside since 2000.
- Ordered doctors not to treat Terri when she had a life threatening infection in 1993 and 1995.
“Michael claims he loves Terri, and he has said it on numerous occasions, but he treats her in a way I don’t think most of us would treat our own pets,” Bobby Schindler, Terri’s brother, told WND.
If neglect or abuse can be proved, the state can take over guardianship of Terri.
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.