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Let Schiavo case focus on issue of guardianship

Published September 27, 2003

Ten years ago, I represented Bob and Mary Schindler in their initial unsuccessful attempt to have Michael Schiavo removed as the guardian of his wife Terri.

At that time, Michael Schiavo had received a large sum of money from a malpractice claim against Terri's treating physician. Most of the recovery was allocated for Terri's medical care. Bob and Mary were primarily concerned that Michael was not paying attention to Terri's medical needs. Their underlying concern was Michael's motivation: He had a girlfriend and if Terri died he would inherit all the money allocated to her care.

The case today has been presented as a debate over whether Terri Schiavo will ever recover or not and, therefore, whether her feeding tube should be removed. I believe it should still be about who should be the guardian. If Michael Schiavo is not interested in whatever money is left from the malpractice case and if he plans to get married after his wife has died, why doesn't the court just remove him as the guardian? He can get a divorce and get on with his life. The Schindlers can then take care of their daughter for as long as they see fit. The court would then not be in the position of trying to determine the past (Did Terri want to live like this?) and predicting the future (Will Terri ever recover?)

It is a much better alternative than pulling someone's feeding tube and letting her starve to death.

-- James A. Sheehan, Esq., St. Petersburg

Give Terri back to her parents

Re: Terri Schiavo.

Since when does another person play God and decide when someone should die? Please don't give me, "She wouldn't have wanted to live like this."

Michael Schiavo should give Terri back to her parents, then he won't have to deal with her living. No one will fault him if he goes about his life to the fullest and lets Terri live the rest of her life to the fullest. Have Judge Greer annul the marriage, and let Terri live the remainder of her life in the care of her family.

I'm the mother of a son who lives with a feeding tube. He's not much better off than Terri, but he is still breathing and still reacts to the world around him even if it's only to blink. Just because they can't talk, doesn't mean that they can't hear. Coma patients usually tell everyone what they heard while in a coma. If and when God is ready to take her, he will, on his time frame.

Michael Schiavo should give Terri back to her parents and walk way a free man!

-- Rebecca Bandy, Safety Harbor

We have to face up to realities

Re: Too thin a line between life, death for Schiavo.

In Howard Troxler's Sept. 15 column, he suggests that Terri Schiavo is between life and death. I would like to draw to your attention to the fact that Mrs. Schiavo, as a person, died 13 years ago. Troxler mentioned that Mrs. Schiavo wakes up in the morning and sleeps in the evening, which is not true. Her apparent waking and her apparent sleep do not follow any pattern, because it is unconscious. Furthermore, the U.S. Supreme Court has noted that artificial feeding and hydration are considered intrusive medical interventions. In other words, feeding and hydration are similar to other medical treatments. This was in the Nancy Cruzan case in 1990.

Mrs. Schiavo's departure is no doubt sad for her parents as well as painful to them to admit, but the fact that the opinionmakers including Mr. Troxler and columnist Debra Saunders give an impression that depriving Mrs. Schiavo from feeding and hydration is cruel and that she will starve to death is not true. Mrs. Schiavo will never starve because she is never hungry and she is never thirsty. Mrs. Schiavo will never look forward to a meal, feel satisfaction from a meal, think, plan, analyze or interact. She reacts subconsciously. She is unaware of who she is or where she is and has been for the past 13 years.

Our society has to decide whether a mindless existence in a dysfunctional body is part of living or not. We can't afford prescription medicines for the elderly who still have hope and can contribute to society while we maintain an unconscious existence void of all potential or awareness. We have to face up.

-- Lofty L. Basta, M.D., president, Project GRACE, and professor of medicine, University of South Florida College of Medicine, Clearwater

A sad case

Re: Too thin a line between life, death for Schiavo.

This is a sad case no matter which side you agree with. Some questions need answers. Who, in fact, is paying for Terri Schiavo's care? If money is not the issue, why doesn't Michael Schiavo divorce Terri and let her parents take sole responsibility for her rehabilitation? Both parties would then have the opportunity to make the decisions "right" for them.

-- Terry Giacobbe, Palm Harbor

It's time to let her go

I am looking forward to the day when Terri Schiavo is finally released from the nightmare that her parents and the other right-wing prolifers have put her through.

As a parent I would hold on to any hope that a miracle could happen and save one of my children if they were injured like Ms. Schiavo. But being realistic and after much anguish and prayer, I would let go.

Do the parents honestly believe she will ever recover enough to be a productive member of society? Do they think Terri will ever be the person that they remember? The idea of a judge giving the order to remove her feeding tube is sickening to me, but unfortunately, it comes down to the law. I do not see this judge as "playing God." I see him as someone who has been given the unfortunate job of making a tough decision based on the rule of law. I have never heard of a legal decision based solely on the feelings of one side or the other. The parents need to let go and let God. Terri will be in a much better place.

-- Beverly James, Tampa

Why not a crusade for life?

Re: Crusade is blind to hard facts of medicine, by Mary Jo Melone, Sept. 21.

Ms. Melone characterizes those who are trying to preserve Terri Schiavo's life as "crusaders" who are "blind to the hard facts of medicine." I suggest that the "blindness" can be easily applied to the author.

A minimum amount of investigation could have shown her that there are a number of reputable doctors who have, under oath, told the court that Terri can be helped. Are "hard facts of medicine" only to apply to those that point to the death of this woman?

There is every indication that Ms. Schiavo can, with the help of a loving family and dedicated physicians, be brought to a new mode of living. Is she not worth the effort?

If "crusade" is the operative topic, wouldn't it be wonderful if the crusade could be one that engages us in a fight for the most vulnerable among us and attests to the value of human life, even disabled human life? That would be a crusade that even Ms. Melone, I hope, would join.

-- Katherine Lambert, Tampa

A step toward a safer society

Re: Death prompts paper to limit classified gun ads, Sept. 25.

Having just read the article in the Times about the decision of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune to discontinue accepting classified ads for firearms, I encourage the Times to follow suit. The law that allows for these ads is a loophole that no level-headed, law-abiding citizen is in favor of, and anything you can do to help close it is a step toward a safer society for all of us.

-- Dan McGraw, St. Petersburg

Restricting ads won't stop crime

This letter is in response to the recent restriction of firearms sales in the classified ads by several Florida newspapers. The news story I saw spoke about how the newspapers already had decided that they would not carry any more classified ads for firearms. It also stated that the St. Petersburg Times was considering the same action.

What is the reasoning behind this decision? Do you actually think that just because a newspaper no longer carries these advertisements, crime will decrease? No matter what you or anybody else does, criminals will find a way to get their hands on guns. This would be an extreme overreaction! Why don't you stop all the automotive advertisements? Automobiles account for a lot more deaths than guns do. I urge you not to stop these classifieds. This will not stop any kind of crime!

-- Ryan Hamrick, Lithia

Coddling criminals has fatal results

Re: Slain Hillsborough deputy died with honor, friends say, Sept. 20.

Deputy John Tauer was yet another victim of our absurd juvenile justice system that continues to "coddle" young hoodlums instead of insisting that they pay for their crimes! Here we have 20-year-old Jontue Davis (driver of the get-away car with $309 worth of stolen goods) who has been arrested six times during the past year on charges including larceny, marijuana possession and grand theft auto. His accomplice, arrested last August at age 14, has since been arrested three additional times for charges including vehicle theft and burglary.

Apparently, these two miscreants had "get-out-of-jail-free" cards (furnished, most likely, by their public defenders) to use every time they were arrested! Too bad. Deputy Tauer could have been alive today if our judges would mete out the punishment these criminals deserved (regardless of age) rather than giving them the customary "slap-on-the wrist!"

-- Bob Lindskog, Palm Harbor

Police presence is welcome

Re: A strange position, letter, Sept. 20.

No, the letter writer is not alone. In fact, our name is "Legion." Midtown is populated by an overwhelming majority of law-abiding citizens who feel just as he does. That anyone would want the St. Petersburg Police Department to allow drug dealers and people with illegal guns to control our neighborhoods and run rampant like the Wild, Wild West, I, too, find strange indeed.

Police officers like Officer Tim Virden and others who place themselves in danger are appreciated in Midtown, although they don't hear it often.

-- E. Daniels, St. Petersburg

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[Last modified September 27, 2003, 02:09:25]


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