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Emergency stay granted in Schiavo case; hearing today could determine her future

CLEARWATER, Fla. (BP)–Florida Judge George Greer issued an emergency stay Tuesday, temporarily preventing the removal of Terri Schiavo’s food and nutrition tube.

Now, all eyes are on a court hearing today at 2:45 ET that likely will determine whether the disabled woman continues to live.

Terri’s husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo, intended to have the tube removed Tuesday at 1 p.m. when Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal issued its mandate denying an appeal by Terri’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, in a case involving their daughter’s religious liberty rights.

The announcement by the court of appeals ended a stay Greer issued in October. In January the U.S. Supreme Court denied an appeal of the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling which found a measure passed by the Florida legislature and enacted by Governor Jeb Bush violated the Florida Constitution. The hastily passed law in the fall of 2003 authorized Bush to order Terri’s feeding tube to be reinserted following a seven day period in which her husband had begun the starvation and dehydration process.

Greer’s emergency stay, which took place at 1:45 ET Tuesday, will be in effect until 5 p.m. ET today to “permit the orderly process” of considering a motion for a stay. The hearing before Greer originally was scheduled for Monday. On Monday Greer, who serves on the Sixth Circuit Court, said he wished time to consider the court of appeals’ latest decision, so he postponed the hearing for the emergency stay until today.

Terry Schiavo is an otherwise healthy 41-year-old woman today. In 1990, she was found unconscious at home, having suffered brain damage after her heart stopped. In recent years her legal husband and her parents have been in a battle over whether she should continue to live.

Michael Schiavo says Terri would not wish to continue to live in her present condition. However, no written request from Terri Schiavo exists. He has lived with his long-time girlfriend, with whom he has had two children, for at least nine years.

There are a number of other legal motions already in process — one of which dates back to 2002 and challenges Michael Schiavo’s fitness as a guardian. In that case the court ordered Michael Schiavo to appear for a deposition with Schindler attorney David Gibbs III in April.

Other motions and appeals have to do with whether Terri has received due process of law and appropriate representation in court, and whether her religious rights are being considered. Gibbs’ firm still plans to file — within the 90-days allowed — an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on the religious liberty issue, he said Monday.

A new motion Gibbs plans to put before Greer this week will ask that the court take into consideration new medical advances related to people formerly considered in a “Persistent Vegetative State” (PVS).

“It would certainly seem that Terri may not be in PVS, but may be in MCS, a minimally conscious state,” Gibbs said.

Urging Christians to pray and to visit the Web site, www.terrisfight.org, for regular updates on the situation, Gibbs also said individuals should express to their elected officials and representatives the need for protection for the disabled and a new look at guardianship laws.
Joni B. Hannigan is managing editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, available online at www.FloridaBaptistWitness.com.

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  • Joni B. Hannigan