Terri Schiavo Reunited With Family, But For How Long?
I spoke with Bob and Mary Schindler, Terri's parents, earlier this week. You may recall that Michael Schiavo, Terri's husband, had barred her parents, siblings, and her priest, Msgr. Malanowski, from visiting Terri for two months. He has frequently suspended Terri's family's right to visit her in the past, for capricious reasons or no reason at all, but this latest incident was by far the longest such deprivation.
The reason given for this latest denial was a bizarre incident following a routine visit by the Schindlers on March 29. Michael accused the Schindlers of inflicting what he described as "puncture wounds" on her arms. As I wrote last month, there was only the flimsiest of evidence to support the allegation, as the Florida office of civil rights had examined Terri and found no evidence of any needle marks. What is perhaps more interesting about the timing of the accusation is that they followed closely on the Schindlers' discovering, and making complaints about, neglect and poor care of Terri.
The Clearwater Police Department also investigated the incident and found no evidence of the purported needle marks. There was some speculation that the marks on Terri's arms may have been caused by a "Hoyer Sling", a device commonly used to lift bedridden patients. There was, in the words of the police report, "no evidence of criminal activity", and the case has been closed. You may read the police report for yourself here.
The police issued their report on May 14. However, even the complete collapse of his absurd allegation was not enough for him to lift the ban, so the Schindlers went to court on May 26 to regain access to Terri. Judge Greer issued an order on June 4 requiring Michael to once again allow Terri's family and Msgr. Malanowski to visit her.
The Legal Battle Continues
The Schindlers are, of course, relieved and happy to be able to see Terri once again. According to Bob, Terri started to cry when her sister kissed her at that visit.
But Michael and his attorney, George Felos, continue to press for Terri's judicially-sanctioned death. The legal fight is now entering the appellate phase, after Judge Douglas Baird's ruling that "Terri's Law" is unconstitutional. What George Felos and Judge George Greer want desperately is to prevent the re-exmination of Greer's rulings of fact in the case; for example, that Terri didn't want to go on living if she became incapacitated, or that Terri is in a Persistent Vegetative State. I have argued in this blog and elsewhere that these rulings are highly questionable. Governor Bush and the Schindlers are seeking to reopen these matters, and in order to head them off, Felos has sought to "fast track" the case to the Florida Supreme Court, where only issues of law, not of fact, would be considered. His public rationale for bypassing the Appeals Court is the "gravity of the issue".
Unfortunately, the Appeals Court has let itself be bypassed, and unless Governor Bush's legal team can pull off some sort of coup, that ruling will probably stand. The Schindlers' legal team doesn't expect that the case will be argued until the fall, so it is likely that Terri is safe for that long. As Bob has told me several times, "every day she's still alive is a victory." We must keep praying for many such victories.
Some Good News
Speaking of victories and prayers, it appears that one prayer of mine and many others has been answered: Judge George Greer, the "unjust judge" who has repeatedly and sometimes unaccountably ruled in favor of Michael Schiavo's efforts to end Terri's life, is being challenged in this fall's election. Jan Govan, an attorney from Clearwater, Fla., is running against Greer. He reports that he has been motivated to run by Greer's activist rulings in the Terri Schiavo case. Govan faces an uphill battle, as Greer has already collected around $55,000 from area lawyers and supporters, according to LifeNews.com. Furthermore, judicial elections usually have poor response, which works in the favor of incumbents. But now that someone is actually willing to oppose Greer, we have cause to hope that didn't exist before. So let Govan's victory be the subject of our prayers.