New Developments Give Hope to Terri's Supporters

Several new developments have occurred in the Terri Schiavo case since a Florida judge gave a three-week extension on the removal of Terri’s feeding tube last week. And while none of these developments can guarantee a successful court appeal, pro-lifers are hopeful the new additions can at least extend the March 18 death sentence on Terri’s life.

In an announcement made public yesterday, U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon said he intends to file the Incapacitated Persons Legal Protection Act, which would afford federal appeal rights to disabled persons facing removal from life support. Weldon said he would file the bill on Tuesday, March 8, 2005 – 10 days before Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube is scheduled to be removed.

"Terri has never been afforded independent counsel in a matter that will result in her life or death," Weldon said on the House floor March 3. "Terri has had no voice of her own in these legal proceedings.... The case of Terri Schiavo deserves a second look by an objective court."

Weldon’s bill, dubbed the new “Terri’s Law” by its supporters, would give Terri’s parents, the Schindlers, access to a federal court to argue for their daughter’s life. The act applies to disabled persons like Schiavo, who are facing a court-ordered death sentence.

Christian pro-lifers backed the bill, and urged others to “immediately contact their U.S. Senators and Representatives” in support of the legislation.

"Congress can act to ensure a federal court hearing on whether or not Terri will die of starvation and dehydration," said Lori Kehoe, Congressional Liaison for National Right to Life Committee (NRLC)’s Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics. "We call on all citizens to immediately contact their U.S. Senators and Representatives and urge them to support Representative Weldon's bill to amend the Habeas Corpus Act to allow its use when a state court orders denial of food or fluids in cases like Terri's."

Also on Thursday, the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) revealed their petition filed last week to investigate alleged abuse charges against Terri Schiavo.
The petition, which was sealed until yesterday, argues that Terri’s husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo, should not be allowed to remove her tube as scheduled on March 18.

``The allegations in the abuse reports go to the heart of whether abuse, neglect and/or exploitation has been perpetrated by the guardian such that any relief afforded by this court to this guardian prior to the conclusion of such investigation would be tragically misplaced,'' wrote Michael Will, DCF's Adult Protective Investigations supervisor.
The petition states that the agency received “30 detailed allegations of abuse, neglect or exploitation in a 34 page document received by the DCF hotline'' Feb. 18 and Feb. 21, ``whereupon an investigation has been commenced.''

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the lawyers for Terri’s parents filed a new motion asking Judge George Greer to reverse his 2000 order to remove Terri’s feeding tube, in light of newly surfaced evidence of her desire to live.

According to a statement released by David Gibbs, attorney for Bob and Mary Schindler, Pinellas County Court Judge Greer erred in discounting the testimony of Terri’s friend Diane Meyer, who in 2000 said that the now-brain damaged Schiavo at one time indicated she did not agree with taking people off of artificial life support.

"In our motion we pointed out that in Judge Greer's February 2000 Order authorizing Terri's death, he made a clear mistake by discounting the testimony of Terri's friend, Diane Meyer. Diane testified that in 1982 Terri told her she did not agree with the decision by Karen Ann Quinlan's parents to take their daughter off life support,” Gibbs’ statement explained. “Judge Greer, although initially finding Diane's testimony 'believable,' finally concluded that this conversation could not have occurred in 1982.

“Judge Greer said in his 2000 Order that he was 'mystified' about Diane Meyer's use of present tense verbs in relating her conversation with Terri. Therefore, he concluded that Terri's statements to Diane did not indicate end-of-life wishes made as an adult, because Terri would only have been 11 or 12 years old in 1976, the year he believed Karen Ann Quinlan had died,” wrote Gibbs.

However, according to Gibbs, “it was not Diane Meyer who was mistaken – it was Judge Greer,” since Karen Ann Quinlan did not die until 1985, some 9 years after her court case ended and her respirator was removed.

Gibbs further explained that since this critical piece of information may have erroneously influenced Greer’s decision to remove Terri’s tube, a new trial should be ordered.

"If Judge Greer's 2000 Order authorizing Michael Schiavo to end his wife's life were a criminal death sentence, Terri would be entitled to a new trial on the basis of reversible error. Although Terri is not a criminal, she is still under a court-imposed death order, an order that is the equivalent of a death penalty,” wrote Gibbs. “Therefore, we are asking Judge Greer to correct his mistake by either reversing his 2000 Order or conducting a new trial.”