Court Refuses to Reopen Terry Schiavo's Case

Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal Dec. 29 affirmed a lower court’s decision not to re-open a case involving the religious liberty of a woman in a vegetative state, Terri Schiavo. Terri Schiavo has been in what doctors consider a persistent vegetative state since 1990 when she collapsed in her home.

Florida Supreme Court determined that once any court has issued a decree regarding the care of an incompetent person, neither the legislature nor the executive branch can take independent steps on behalf of the incompetent person’s welfare, according to BPNews.

Bob and Mary Schindler, Terri’s parents, filed the appeal on first amendment grounds, arguing that the removal of the woman’s feeding and hydration tube would violate her religious rights. The Schindlers are allowed to file a motion within 15 days asking the court to re-hear their appeal, but will not be permitted to appeal the court’s decision to the Florida Supreme Court. However, the case will be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Her parents argue that even if Terri had previously indicated she would wish to die in such circumstances, as a Roman Catholic, Terri would very likely have changed her mind after Pope John Paul II's statement last year that removing a feeding tube would constitute “euthanasia by omission.”

Circuit Court Judge George Greer in October denied the religious liberty argument and refused to re-open the case based on what Schindler attorneys said. The stay on removing Terri’s feeding tube will expire when the Second District Court of Appeals issues their final decision within 15 days.

Her husband and legal guardian, Michael Schiavo, has sought the removal of his wife’s feeding tube for nearly a decade, saying it is what she would have wanted. The Schindlers maintain that their daughter has not received the rehabilitation and care she requires.

Schiavo’s feeding tube was removed in October 2003, but the Florida legislature passed a law giving Bush the authority to order the re-insertion of the tube. He did so, and Michael Schiavo challenged the constitutionality of the law, and it was ruled unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court in September 2004.

Bob Schindler told the Florida Baptist Witness he is angered and frustrated by the court of appeal ruling, which may clear the way for Michael Schiavo to have his wife’s feeding tube removed.

Lawyers from Gibbs Law Firm, who are representing the Schindlers, are planning to file about 4-5 other legal motions related to the case in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, Florida's Gov. Jeb Bush asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

“This is a case that certainly deserves consideration by the Supreme Court and we are supporting the Governor’s office in its effort to have the high court take this critically important case,” Sekulow, a lawyer said.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to give a decision by early January on whether or not they will accept the case.