The Florida judge who has consistently ruled against efforts to keep Terri Schiavo alive has said no to an effort by the state’s Department of Children and Families to rescue the brain-injured woman by physically removing her, but a department spokeswoman says the state agency still could take action without judicial approval.
Pinellas Circuit Court Judge George Greer said the state cannot take Schiavo into custody, nor provide her food or water.
WFLA Radio in Tampa says the ruling will likely be appealed.
The possible “rescue” scenario emerged today with Schiavo now in her sixth day without food or water.
Florida’s DCF indicated it might remove the brain-injured woman, by force if necessary, from the hospice where she has lived the past five years.
Robert Schindler points to the Woodside Hospice in Pinellas Park, Fla., where his brain-injured daughter resides. (Photo: David Nee)
Department secretary Lucy Hadi told the Palm Beach Post her staff is relying on a state law giving authority to intervene on behalf of a vulnerable adult “suffering from abuse or neglect that presents a risk of death or serious physical injury.”
Schiavo’s feeding tube was removed Friday by a court order requested by her husband, Michael Schiavo, who contends Terri had expressed a wish to not live under her present condition. Parents Robert and Mary Schindler dispute the court’s finding that their daughter is in a “persistent vegetative state,” citing numerous physicians who believe she is responsive and could benefit from therapy.
At a news conference this afternoon, Gov. Jeb Bush confirmed the DCF, under his authority, was considering the move.
Bush said new information has come to light warranting intervention, including a review of Terri Schiavo’s condition by neurologist Dr. William Cheshire, who claims she may have been misdiagnosed. Cheshire believes Schiavo to be in a “minimally conscious state,” not a “persistent vegetative state” as courts have determined.
“It is imperative that she be stablized so the DCF team can fulfill their statute to review the facts surrounding the case,” Bush said.
Hadi said DCF must file a petition to remove Terri Schiavo from the Pinellas Park, Fla., hospice but could take action without judicial approval if the department believes it’s warranted.
The law says emergency medical treatment can be given to the vulnerable adult as long as “such treatment does not violate a known health care advance directive prepared by the vulnerable adult.”
Terri Schiavo did not have a written directive, but courts have backed her husband’s claims that she made her wishes known orally in informal conversations.
The court history would not prevent DCF from taking action, however, according to Hadi.
“We’re not compelled to look at prior judicial proceedings,” Hadi told the Post. “What we’re compelled to look at is the presenting circumstance and any allegation of abuse and neglect that we’ve received. So we have to deal with those and fulfill our statutory responsibility, notwithstanding anything else that may have gone on before.”
She insisted the court decisions upholding Michael Schiavo are questionable.
“There’s nothing about this case that has been clear-cut, except our concern,” Hadi said. “We’re doing everything we can to be of assistance.”
Meanwhile, a coalition of religious and political groups is urging President Bush and his brother Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to use their executive powers to order police to take Terri Schiavo into protective custody.
Earlier today, the Schindlers asked a federal appeals court to review immediately its three-judge panel’s denial of a motion to restore the feeding tube.
The request for an “expedited rehearing” of the full 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals came 10 hours after the panel said in a 2-1 ruling that the parents ”failed to demonstrate a substantial case on the merits of any of their claims.”
Today’s ruling was the latest legal blow for the Schindlers. Doctors have said Schiavo could survive one to two weeks without water and nutrients.
Michael Schiavo’s lawyer, George Felos, said both sides were likely to pursue their appeals all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Schiavo collapsed under disputed circumstances Feb. 25, 1990, suffering severe brain damage when her heart stopped momentarily. Her husband 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.
Editor’s note: WorldNetDaily has been reporting on the Terri Schiavo story since 2002 – far longer than any other national news organization – and exposing the many troubling, scandalous, and possibly criminal, aspects of the case that to this day rarely surface in news reports. Read WorldNetDaily’s unparalleled, in-depth coverage of the life-and-death fight over Terri Schiavo, including over 150 original stories and columns.