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Judge says Schiavo can live while appeals are pending

CLEARWATER, Fla. (BP)–A pair of judicial decisions the last week in October made clear Terri Schiavo will not die of starvation or dehydration as long as there are appeals pending before the courts.

Handing down a decision Oct. 29, Pinellas Circuit Judge George W. Greer ruled that the 40-year-old disabled woman would continue to receive nutrition and hydration through a tube until her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, have exhausted all appeals in the case.

Greer’s ruling came on the heels of a Florida Supreme Court decision Oct. 27 granting Florida Gov. Jeb Bush until Nov. 29 to appeal their decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The woman at the center of the legal debate, Terri Schiavo, has been in what some doctors consider a persistent vegetative state since 1990 when she collapsed in her home. Her husband and legal guardian Michael Schiavo, who has fathered two children with his live-in girlfriend, has sought the removal of his wife’s feeding tube for nearly a decade.

Terri Schiavo’s parents have long maintained their daughter has not received the rehabilitation and care she requires. Their attorneys have unsuccessfully filed motions on their behalf and on behalf of Terri Schiavo’s siblings challenging Michael Schiavo’s guardianship and asking to be able to care for Terri themselves.

David Gibbs, an attorney for the Schindlers, asked Greer Oct. 27 to extend a stay he issued against removing Terri’s feeding tube when he dismissed arguments Oct. 22 asking for a new ruling in the case. That stay was to expire Dec. 6.

On Oct. 22 Greer dismissed a new argument that Terri, a practicing Roman Catholic, would want to adhere to a newly publicized teaching by the pope that the removal of a feeding tube is against church teachings and would also violate her right to religious freedom.

The Schindlers are appealing Greer’s decision. George Felos, Michael Schiavo’s attorney, told reporters Oct. 29 it might be time to advise Schiavo to end his quest to remove his wife’s feeding tube, calling remedies through the judicial system “a waste of time.”

However, on Nov. 1, Felos filed a motion with the 2nd District Court of Appeals asking them to vacate Greer’s stay and to expedite the motion to vacate.

Bob Schindler told the Tampa Tribune that he hopes Michael Schiavo and his lawyer end their quest to have Terri’s feeding tube removed.

“Eventually they are going to get to the point that maybe [they will see] what they are trying to do is just wrong,” Schindler said.

The Florida Supreme Court Oct. 21 declined a request for a re-hearing in the case about the constitutionality of the law allowing Terri to live.

Without comment, the seven justices declined a request from Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to reconsider their Sept. 23 decision in which they overturned Terri’s Law. In that decision the high court ruled that a law allowing the governor to order the resumption of Schiavo’s feeding and hydration tube was unconstitutional.

Bush is appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In related news, Terri Schiavo recently was moved from Park Place Assisted Living in Clearwater, Fla., where she has lived since last year, back to Woodside Hospice in Pinellas Park where she lived previously until the hospice completed renovations.

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  • Joni B. Hannigan