As Legal Options Fade, Protests For Terri Schiavo's Life Heat
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 28, 2005
PINELLAS PARK, FLORIDA--Having exhausted virtually all legal avenues to keep their daughter alive, the parents of Terri Schiavo told protesters over the weekend to go home and celebrate Easter with their loved ones. They also urged supporters and Florida Governor Jeb Bush, to do anything they could to save Terri's life.
By Monday afternoon Terri had been without food or water for ten straight days. Doctors predict that she will likely die of dehydration and starvation by the end of this week.
"Terri is declining rapidly," Schindler lawyer David C. Gibbs III said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation."
"They've begun giving her morphine drip for the pain. At this point, we would say Terri has passed the point of no return."
Last Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court turned down a request by Terri's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, to challenge a lower federal court's decision to not get involved in the case. Congress had passed a law on March 21 specifically giving the Schindlers the right to go to federal court to argue that Terri's religious and due process rights had been violated. The federal court, however, ruled against them, saying that the Schindlers had not convinced him they would be successful in arguing their case.
On Saturday, the Florida Supreme Court upheld a ruling by a lower court to not allow the state's Department of Children and Families to take custody of Terri. The agency and the governor had cited new allegations of neglect, and asked for Terri's brain to be reexamined with new technology. Bush claimed that a state neurologist had suggested that Terri is not in a "persistent vegetative state", but is instead in the less severe "minimally conscious state" and may be more alert and aware than doctors had previously indicated.
The judge had rejected Bush's petition, saying the state had no legal grounds to place Terri in its custody.
Governor Bush and his brother, President George W. Bush, have told Terri's family that they are sad and disappointed at the courts' decisions. Both added that there is nothing more they can do from a legal standpoint.
Also over the weekend, Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge George Greer rejected the Schindlers' claims that Terri had tried to say "I want to live" the day her feeding tube was removed. Greer said all of the "credible medical evidence" he had received over the last five years informed him that Terri is in a persistent vegetative state is not aware or able to communicate.
Terri was 26 years old when she had a heart attack. Because she stopped breathing, her brain was injured from lack of oxygen for about five minutes. The severity of that injury has been at the center of the debate between Terri's husband, who claims she is not aware of her surroundings and cannot recover, and her parents, who argue that she is aware and alert and could recover with the use of therapies which Mr. Schaivo has refused to allow.
For years, disability rights groups have been watching the battle between Terri's husband and her parents. Dozens of national disability groups signed a petition in October 2003 showing support for keeping Terri's feeding tube in place. Many people with disabilities identify with Terri's situation, in which another person can make decisions regarding their health, welfare, and death. Many fear that letting Terri die of starvation and dehydration sends a message that their lives are not worth living.
Dozens of demonstrators have been arrested since protests began over a week ago outside the Woodside Hospice where Terri is staying. Most had crossed police lines to take water in for Terri.
On Sunday, about 100 protesters from disability rights groups and right-to-life groups gathered at the hospice. According to the Washington Post, advocates from the disability group Not Dead Yet blocked one of the two entrances that police have tried to keep clear. About a half dozen of the members, all of whom use wheelchairs, slipped out of their wheelchairs, lay down on the asphalt driveway, and chanted "We're not dead yet!" for about an hour.
Other forms of protest have been less civilized.
Police in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania are investigating claims by the wife of Michael Schiavo's brother that a motorist threatened to kill her if Terri dies.
In Asheville, North Carolina, Richard Alan Meywes appeared in court Monday under charges that he put out a bounty of $250,000 for Michael Schiavo's death and $50,000 for the death of Judge Greer.
Greer currently has bodyguards assigned to him after receiving several death threats and deliveries of dead flowers. Pinellas County has also installed a special computer to handle the massive number of emails that have come into the court, most condemning Greer's rulings.
Police have increased the number of officers outside the hospice.
The attorney for Terri's husband said Monday that she is "calm". Her parents said that she is showing signs of dehydration but is still alert and fighting for her life.
Related news stories:
"Two courts deny Schiavo appeals" (Associated Press via WZZM)
"US Supreme Court refuses to intervene to save Schiavo" (The Independent)
"Defeat does not deter Schiavo's parents" (MSNBC)
"Florida Supreme Court won't overturn judge's ruling in Terri Schiavo case" (WMAC)
Gov. Bush frustrated by Schiavo roadblocks (Associated Press)
"Hostility flares at Schiavo protests" (Indianapolis Star)
"Terri Schiavo's Husband Allows Her to Receive Communion; Five Protesters Arrested Outside Hospice" (ABC News)
"Local cops say state came for Schiavo" (Knight Ridder Newspapers)
"Schiavo Judge Has Reason to Fear; Armed guards, dead flowers, and not very Christian-sounding e-mail" (Village Voice)
"Opinions differ on signs of death" (St. Petersburg Times)
"Schiavo Called Beyond Saving" (St. Petersburg Times)
"Schiavo Family Urges Protesters to Stay Calm" (Washington Post)