- The Washington Times - Monday, September 1, 2003

The parents of a brain-damaged Florida woman who has been kept alive with a feeding tube since a 1990 heart attack received some unexpected help last week from Gov. Jeb Bush in the fight to keep their daughter alive.

In response to more than 25,000 e-mails sent to his office in support of keeping 39-year-old Terri Schiavo connected to the feeding tube, Mr. Bush asked Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court Judge George Greer to appoint another guardian for her. Judge Greer, who is in Clearwater, currently is the guardian.

“I felt compelled to write,” the governor wrote, adding he knows he does not have the power to overturn three years of court decisions authorizing the removal of Mrs. Schiavo’s feeding tube.

Judge Greer said the governor had no jurisdiction in the matter, and scheduled a September 11 hearing to set a date to remove the tube. Once the tube is gone, Mrs. Schiavo will starve to death.

Her husband, Michael Schiavo, supports removing the tube, while her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, are opposed to it because they say their daughter responds to stimuli and would benefit from therapy.

Mr. Schiavo said Mr. Bush was interfering for political reasons.

“The governor has deliberately twisted the facts in this case in an apparent effort to kowtow to his ‘right-to-life’ political supporters,” he told the Tampa Tribune. “This has nothing to do with him. He should stay out of it.”

The e-mail campaign was provoked by Mrs. Schiavo’s worsening condition and two hospital visits. On Aug. 25, Mr. Schiavo asked Judge Greer to deny his wife treatment for various symptoms, including fever and difficulty in breathing, because her death is imminent now that the courts have allowed her tube to be removed.

The well-known case has pitted Catholic groups, pro-lifers and handicapped-rights groups against euthanasia supporters. At issue is what kinds of measures should be taken to keep brain-damaged people alive, especially if family members cannot agree.

The Florida Catholic Conference, representing the state’s Catholic bishops, released their strongest statement on the matter to date Wednesday, saying it would be “wrong” to remove Mrs. Schiavo’s feeding tube if she were not already near death.

“If Mrs. Schiavo’s feeding tube were to be removed because the nutrition she receives is of no use to her, or because she is near death, or because it is unreasonably burdensome for her, her family, or caregivers, it could be seen as permissible,” the letter said. “But if her feeding tube were to be removed to intentionally cause her death, or because her life is perceived to be useless, or because it is believed that the quality of her life is such that she would be better off, this would be wrong.”

In an Oct. 15 statement, Bishop Robert Lynch of the Diocese of St. Petersburg said the church would “refrain from passing judgment” on the situation. Mrs. Schiavo and her parents are Roman Catholics.

When she was 26 in 1990, Mrs. Schiavo collapsed in her home. Deprived of oxygen for at least 10 minutes, she suffered catastrophic brain damage. In 1992, her husband successfully sued doctors who were giving her medical treatment at the time of her collapse. She received $700,000 and he received $300,000.

By 1995, Mr. Schiavo was living with another woman, with whom he had a child, according to a 2002 interview he had with CNN.

Since 1998, Mr. Schiavo has been petitioning the courts to allow the tube to be removed, saying his wife was in a vegetative state.

Judge Greer ruled in February 2000 that evidence presented by some family members indicated Mrs. Schiavo would not want to be kept alive in her disabled condition and thus the tube could be removed.

The Schindlers have since filed numerous appeals and maintain a Web site — www.terrisfight.org — that tells their side of the story. They say she is not in a coma, but has periods of sleep and wakefulness. She also moves on command, laughs, and struggles to speak.

But Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeal in Lakeland has ruled against the parents twice. The Florida Supreme Court has ruled in Mr. Schiavo’s favor and the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to take the case.

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