Quinlan name resurfaces in Schiavo arguments
Parents want the judge's ruling overturned because of an erroneous statement about the earlier case.
By CHRIS TISCH
Published March 3, 2005
CLEARWATER - The name of Karen Ann Quinlan, whose right-to-die case 30 years ago created legal precedent for end-of-life issues, has surfaced again in the case of Terri Schiavo.
Schiavo's parents want Judge George Greer to throw out his ruling to remove her feeding tube because his order includes an error about the Quinlan case. Her husband's lawyer called the request invalid and dismissed the error as insignificant.
Greer's 2000 order to remove the tube was based on trial testimony from Schiavo's husband and others that she would not want to live on life support.
But a friend of Schiavo's, Diane Meyer, testified about a statement Schiavo made to her concerning Quinlan.
Quinlan's parents persuaded the New Jersey Supreme Court to order their daughter off a ventilator in 1976, though she remained on a feeding tube.
Meyer said she joked about Quinlan to Terri Schiavo in the summer of 1982 after seeing a movie about the case on television. Meyer said the joke was in bad taste and upset Schiavo, then 19.
Meyer said Schiavo told her "she did not approve of what happened. What the parents are doing" to Quinlan, transcripts state.
In his 2000 ruling, Greer notes that Meyer used the present tense in her statements, which he said raised serious questions about when they occurred.
His ruling states that they more likely occurred in the 1970s when Schiavo was a child.
"The court is mystified as to how these present tense verbs would have been used some six years after the death of Karen Ann Quinlin (sic)," he wrote.
Quinlan lived until 1985, three years after Schiavo reportedly made the statement.
David Gibbs III, the attorney for Schiavo's parents, filed a motion Wednesday asking Greer to vacate his 2000 ruling and hold a new trial.
He says Greer discounted Meyer's testimony because he wrongly believed Quinlan was dead in 1982.
Gibbs also asked Greer to toss out his recent order to remove Schiavo's feeding tube March 18.
"Critical evidence was discounted by the court," Gibbs said. "If this was a death penalty case, we would have a new sentencing and we would get a new trial. We believe this is huge."
Terri Schiavo suffered severe brain damage in 1990 when, at age 26, she had a heart attack and collapsed in her St. Petersburg home.
Schiavo's husband, Michael, has been fighting for seven years to remove her feeding tube.
Her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, are fighting to keep her fed.
Though the Schindlers believe she responds to them, Michael Schiavo and most doctors say she is in a vegetative state and has no hope for recovery.
Because Schiavo did not have a living will, Greer had to rely on people's memories of what she said about end of life issues.
His original order has been followed by a long and contentious court battle.
Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, said the Quinlan error in Greer's order is insignificant.
He said the Schindlers' request is invalid because too much time has passed since Greer's 2000 ruling.
"I think what the judge meant to say was that her life support was removed in the mid-1970s," Felos said. "This is so insignificant that the parents chose not to raise the issue in the appellate court."
But Gibbs, who was not the Schindlers' lawyer in 2000, said the error apparently was overlooked.
A lawyer who read the transcripts contacted him by e-mail recently about it. It could all be moot. Greer's 2000 ruling suggests Schiavo's opinion of the Quinlan case didn't weigh heavily in his decision.
The request is one of 16 motions Gibbs has made to keep Schiavo alive.
A status conference on some of those motions is set for Friday.
Greer also will consider a request by the Tampa Tribune and WFLA-Ch. 8 that he release a document in which the state Department of Children and Families seeks to get involved in the case.
Gregg Thomas, an attorney for the newspaper and station, told Greer during a hearing Wednesday that the public has a right to know what prompted the request.
Attorneys have said the agency is has received reports that Terri Schiavo was abused and wants Greer to delay removing the tube for 60 days while it investigates.
"The greater access there is, the more the people can judge the actions of the DCF, judge the actions of the governor and judge your honor's actions," Thomas said.
DCF attorneys opposed making the documents public, citing a need to protect the privacy of witnesses even if they are not named.
Greer said he would rule Thursday.
Before the hearing, DCF Secretary Lucy Hadi was asked whether Gov. Jeb Bush was orchestrating the agency's effort to get involved in the case.
Hadi was speaking Wednesday at the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club in St. Petersburg when former club president Gregory Wilson asked, "Is it possible that the governor is using your agency as a pawn to keep his hand in this tragic event?"
Hadi said no, adding: "I hope you're not suggesting that fulfilling our statutory requirements, investigating abuse and neglect, is being manipulated by someone."
Afterward, Hadi said the DCF investigates only when it receives substantive information.
"It has to be credible, from a standpoint of somebody who is involved and has firsthand knowledge of the circumstances," she said.
[Last modified March 3, 2005, 01:24:45]
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