Federal Judge Refuses To Have Terri's Feeding Tube
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 22, 2005
TAMPA, FLORIDA & ATLANTA, GEORGIA--A federal judge on Tuesday rejected efforts by Terri Schiavo's parents to have their daughter's feeding tube reinserted so she could continue living.
Bob and Mary Schindler immediately filed an appeal with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. They hope the three-member panel will rule in their favor so they can argue that Terri's federal due process and religious rights have been violated. They also hope the appeals court will issue an immediate injunction to have her feeding tube inserted while the panel considers the case.
"Terri is fading quickly and her parents reasonably fear that her death is imminent," David Gibbs III, attorney for the Schindlers, told the federal appeals court in the motion which was filed electronically. In the court documents, the Schindlers said Terri's condition had started to decline Monday, that her eyes were sunken and dark and that she had become "increasingly lethargic".
Mary Schindler paused before reporters outside Woodside Hospice to ask state lawmakers to intervene one more time.
"Please, senators, for the love of God, I'm begging you, don't let my daughter die of thirst," she said.
About 75 protesters gathered outside the hospice where Terri has been without food or water since Friday afternoon. Doctors predict that she will survive between seven and fourteen days without the feeding tube.
Other protesters gathered outside the federal court in Atlanta.
Early Tuesday, U.S. District Judge James Whittemore of Tampa said Terri's parents had not convinced him that they would be successful in arguing that her constitutional rights had been violated. Whittemore heard testimony Monday from attorneys representing Terri's parents and her husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo.
The case had been moved to federal court after Congress passed a bill which President George W. Bush signed into law early Monday morning. The law specifically gave the Schindlers the right to take the case to federal court.
The U.S. Department of Justice filed a statement with the appeals court, saying that an injunction -- to have Terri's feeding tube immediately reinstalled -- was called for in order to carry out the wishes of Congress.
Terri was 26 years old when she had a heart attack in February 1990. Her brain was damaged after she was without oxygen for several minutes. The extent of her brain injury has been debated by medical experts and members of Terri's family. Several doctors and Terri's husband convinced Florida courts that she is in a "persistent vegetative state", that she does not think or feel and can never recover.
Other medical experts and Terri's parents claim that she is aware, that she responds to them, and has even tried to talk to them. They believe that Terri could improve with therapies which Mr. Schiavo has refused to allow.
Mr. Schiavo also convinced the courts that Terri told him before the collapse that she would not want to be on life support. He first petitioned the courts to have her feeding tube removed in 1998.
The Schindlers have challenged that and several other rulings on the belief that Terri, a Roman Catholic, would not have wanted to die by dehydration and starvation.
More than two dozen disability groups have supported the Schindlers in their efforts to keep Terri alive. They have also urged a national debate over the rights of people represented by guardians who may not have their best interests in mind.
"Situations like this happen far too often, in the privacy of families who feel they would be better off without their disabled ward," Mary Johnson wrote in an opinion piece for the L.A. Daily News.
"It's a rare week that passes without some news report of a spouse killing their elderly mate, or a parent ending the life of their disabled child," said Johnson, who is the editor of the Ragged Edge Magazine. "Is it any wonder disability-rights activists are alarmed? Guardians too often value the life of their ward far less than the ward values his or her own life."
In a radio debate Tuesday, Not Dead Yet's Stephen Drake explained that disability rights advocates do not necessarily see the case as a "right to life" versus "right to die" issue.
"We're looking at rights," said Drake. "I don't agree with the 'judicial activism' label, don't agree with this being a 'religious issue' don't agree with this being a 'conservative issue'. To us, this is a rights issue."
"Disabled have cause for concern in case"
"The Case of Terri Schiavo: A Debate Between a Bioethicist and a Disability Rights Activist" (Democracy Now)
"Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)