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Bush weighs in on Schiavo

How about a guardian for the brain-damaged woman? The judge in the right-to-die case respectfully declines.

WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE
Published August 27, 2003

CLEARWATER - Gov. Jeb Bush entered the dispute over the life of brain-damaged Terri Schiavo on Tuesday, asking a circuit court judge to appoint a guardian to review her case before life-support is removed.

Pinellas-Pasco Judge George Greer wasn't swayed. He filed the governor's letter with other correspondence from the public on the case.

"I respect the governor's position," Greer said. "Beyond that, (his letter) is going in the court file."

Bush's request came as Mrs. Schiavo is hospitalized for the second time in recent weeks battling a serious infection and pneumonia that her husband said may be life-threatening.

"I normally would not address a letter to a judge in a pending legal proceeding," Bush's letter said. "However, my office has received over 27,000 e-mails reflecting understandable concern for the well-being of Terri Schiavo."

Given the high emotions of the case, a guardian needs to be appointed to provide the court with an unbiased view of what is in Mrs. Schiavo's best interests, Bush wrote.

Later, Bush told reporters, "The rights of this woman, I think, should be taken into consideration."

Greer said higher courts have mapped out how the case must proceed, and decisions by those courts don't call for further delay.

Greer scheduled a Sept. 11 hearing at which the date for pulling Mrs. Schiavo's feeding tube will be selected. Once the tube is pulled, Mrs. Schiavo is expected to die in 10 to 14 days, according to doctors.

Referring to the 27,000 e-mails, Greer said he wasn't engaged in a "popularity contest."

"I don't go out on the street and survey how I'm supposed to rule," he told reporters.

Mrs. Schiavo's husband, Michael Schiavo, said Bush should stay out of the way.

"This case has been in litigation for five years, and all of a sudden Gov. Bush wants to be involved?" he said. "This isn't his concern, and he should stay out of it."

Greer refused to grant an emergency request by Michael Schiavo's attorneys to allow the suspension of all of his wife's medical treatment.

Mrs. Schiavo's medical condition has become an increased concern with her recent hospitalizations. During her first, she was treated for a urinary tract infection and a bleeding esophagus.

Schiavo said his wife, hospitalized since Sunday night, would die without medical treatment. He said doctors have told him her prognosis is uncertain even with treatment.

Mrs. Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, have battled Schiavo in the courts and say their daughter's condition might be improved with treatment. Court appointed doctors say her condition is irreversible.

Pat Anderson, a lawyer representing the Schindlers, said she thought the governor's letter influenced Greer's decision against ending medical treatment.

"He got the message loud and clear," Anderson said. "He didn't stop antibiotics."

The Schindlers were visiting her at Morton Plant Hospital and were not immediately available for comment.

"Terri's sleeping more than normal, she's more sluggish than normal, she feels warmer to the touch than normal. It's touch and go, frankly," Anderson said.

Mrs. Schiavo collapsed and her heart stopped at age 26 in 1990 from what her doctors believed was a potassium imbalance.

Her husband said that Mrs. Schiavo would not want to have her life extended by artificial means given her brain damage, and Greer ruled in 2000 after a trial that life support should be removed.

- Times staff writer Steve Bousquet contributed to this report, which also contains information from the Associated Press.

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