Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Time for Governor Bush to intervene

Time for the Governor to Act Now

Governor Jeb Bush has watched the Schiavo tragedy over the last two years. First, he encouraged the State Legislature in Florida to pass legislation to re-insert the feeding tube that was removed a year-and-a-half ago following a long series of legal maneuvers. Then, over the course of the last year-and-a-half, the State Courts have uniformly told the State Legislature and the executive branch that it had no authority to intervene to protect this disabled person. Without reviewing the evidence, the courts have uniformly supported the decision of Judge Greer that Terri Schiavo, an innocent person, must die by starvation.

When the last set of hearings had run its course, Judge Greer stated that on March 18, 2005 the feeding tube providing nutrition and hydration to Terri Schiavo could be removed. On that day, Michael Schiavo, the estranged husband of Terri Schiavo, ordered the removal of the tube.

Terri now is in her fifth day of a horrific process of starving and dehydrating to death. The country, in shock, clamored for action. And the Congress of these United States passed a specific bill allowing Terri's family to file a petition for relief in the Federal District Court in Tampa, Florida. Florida District Judge, James Whittemore, after listening to two hours of argument, would not order the reinsertion of the tube. His cavalier attitude reflects an arrogance typical of many on the current judiciary. Now there has been an appeal to the11th circuit. This does not bode well for Terri.

Through it all, Governor Jeb Bush has encouraged the State Legislature to once again pass additional legislation. The Florida House passed the measure, but it is bogged down in the Florida Senate due to the obstruction of one particular Senator named Jim King. As of this writing, the Florida Senate is being pressured -- not only by the people of the State of Florida, but by the people in this county -- to do the right thing and feed Terri Schiavo. Yet nothing has happened. And time grows short.

In all of this, certain people have acted admirably, albeit at the last minute.

However, the plain truth is that Governor Bush, in his role as chief law enforcement officer and/or the FBI should have taken Terri Schiavo into protective custody months, if not years, ago. The parade of horribles, the lack of due process, the failure to allow Terri to have her own legal counsel and an independent guardian ad litem, are only the tip of the iceberg as to the violations of her due process and civil rights by this Pinellas County judge.

One only needs to read some of the well-reasoned arguments currently on the Internet to understand the callousness of Judge Greer's position. Governor Bush should realize that he has the authority to act, and should do so now.

Although there are many people who argue as to whether Terri would respond to therapy, one should at least give it a try. According to one report, Dr. William Hammesfahr, a neurologist who has examined Terri, stated that Terri can "eat and swallow right now." He said that in many of the videos circulated through the news media, Schiavo is shown to be responsive. Hammesfahr was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology in 1999 for his work on brain injury and stroke. He is a recognized expert in treating neurological disorders, having successfully treated thousands of patients using vasodilator therapy, which increases blood flow to the brain, thus healing conditions previously thought to be untreatable. Dr. Hammesfahr has stated that she is able to swallow. Further, he stated that other doctors who testified before Judge Greer had limited exposure to Terri, and had not completed the standard evaluations used by neurologists in the examination of brain injuries. It is also his opinion that she is not in a permanent vegetative state, or PVS, nor is she in a coma. Whether he is correct or not, the truth is that such matters need to be explored when a life is at stake.

While the Governor waits for a Federal court of appeals to consider reinserting the tube, Terri's condition continues to be compromised. Governor Bush needs to act immediately and issue an order taking her into protective custody. The immediate justification for his action is that her civil rights and due process rights have been systematically violated in Pinellas County by the judge. Further that there are numerous medical experts who would challenge the decision by Judge Greer that she is unable to receive therapy. Finally, Judge Greer rebuffed a request by the Florida Department of Children and Families for a 60-day stay on his motion so that they could investigate allegations that Michael Schiavo had abused and neglected his wife. And if there were not any other reason, the decision by Judge Greer to totally ignore a Congressional Subpoena served by the House of Representatives to call Terri into her hearings should be reason enough to take her into protective custody.

The time to act is now. It is not time for him to wait. The Governor has the moral and ethical, as well as legal obligation to act.

Time grows short.

The shadow of death lingers over this nation.


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