- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 9, 2005

CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s social services agency and Republican state lawmakers acted on two fronts yesterday to block the March 18 removal of a feeding tube for a woman at the center of a contentious euthanasia case.

The Department of Children & Family Services (DCF) sought to intervene in the case to investigate accusations of abuse and neglect against Terri Schiavo’s husband, while Republican lawmakers crafted a bill requiring that incapacitated people be given water and nutrition unless a living will directs otherwise.

Attorneys for DCF told Judge George W. Greer the agency wants as much as a 60-day delay in the removal of the feeding tube to investigate the abuse claims.

DCF supervisor Susan McPhee testified the accusations include denying the brain-damaged woman some medical treatment, refusing all rehabilitative therapy and isolating her in her room with the blinds closed.

“This is a heightened situation because we are talking about the life of Terri Schiavo,” DCF attorney Kelly McKibben said.

Michael Schiavo’s attorney, George Felos, argued that DCF has no legal right to interfere and Judge Greer has no jurisdiction to allow it. He said he thinks the agency is politically motivated.

“DCF is simply acting as an arm of the executive branch to try to undo a court order they don’t like,” Mr. Felos told reporters.

Judge Greer said he would rule on the DCF request as early as today.

In Tallahassee, a House committee approved a bill requiring doctors to provide nutrition and hydration to incapacitated patients who didn’t leave an advance directive. It passed 7-4 on a party-line vote and still needs approval from two more committees before facing the full House.

Mr. Schiavo says his wife did not want to live hooked up to machines. But she has no living will and Mr. Schiavo has presented no contemporaneous evidence of such a wish.

Also yesterday, Judge Greer denied two motions by the woman’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler. One asked for standard medical exams to test the 41-year-old woman for brain activity.

The Rev. Rob Johansen, a Michigan priest working with the Schindlers, said Mrs. Schiavo “has never had MRI [magnetic resonance imaging] or PET [positron emission tomography] scans of her brain.”

Father Johansen said “neurologists I have spoken to have all registered disbelief and dismay” that a brain diagnosis has been made in the absence of such tests, which are regarded as “standard diagnostic tools for evaluating the extent of brain injuries.”

The other denied motion asked that the order allowing removal of Mrs. Schiavo’s feeding tube be thrown out because the judge mistakenly discounted the testimony of a witness during a trial to determine Mrs. Schiavo’s end-of-life wishes.

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