Governor sides with nurse in trouble for Schiavo remarks

Published July 14, 2006

Gov. Jeb Bush on Thursday sided with a nurse who could lose her license because she discussed Terri Schiavo's medical condition on national TV.

"The governor feels the actions taken against Carla Sauer-Iyer are not justified and hopes that the complaint will be reconsidered and dismissed," Bush spokesman Russell Schweiss wrote in an e-mail to the St. Petersburg Times. "She did not disclose any information which was not already public."

On Thursday, the Department of Health requested the Board of Nursing to dismiss the agency's complaint that Sauer-Iyer, 42, improperly disclosed patient information on CNN last year.

Sauer-Iyer rejected a proposed settlement that would have forced her to give up her nursing license, pay up to $1,683 in administrative costs and not to apply for a license in the future.

Sauer-Iyer, a registered nurse, rejected a proposed settlement and requested an administrative hearing. No date has been set for the hearing.

She provided an affidavit for the governor's legal team in its defense of Terri's Law, which was ruled unconstitutional.

In her affidavit, Sauer-Iyer, who worked for Palm Garden of Largo as a licensed practical nurse while Schiavo was there, claimed Schiavo said "Mommy" and "Help me," told nurses she was in pain and chuckled when Sauer-Iyer told her humorous stories.

Schiavo, who was the center of national controversy for years, died March 31, 2005.

Michael Schiavo said Thursday that Bush is trying to protect someone he used.

"This is America. The governor is entitled to be wrong again," he said. "What Carla did is wrong and what the governor is doing to protect her is wrong. Why does he want to help people who lie?"

Sauer-Iyer said she was "glad but not surprised" to hear about Bush's statement, "since he was instrumental in trying to save Terri's life."

The case against Sauer-Iyer began on March 28, 2005, when the Health Department received a complaint from a Massachusetts registered nurse who said Sauer-Iyer made "unsubstantiated comments" on CNN "that with 'just a little bit of therapy' Mrs. Schiavo could be rehabilitated."

Schiavo had been diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state since her collapse in 1990.

Times staff writer Joni James contributed to this report. Lorri Helfand can be reached at (727) 445-4155 or lorri@sptimes.com.