Terri Schiavo's parents offer new doctors' opinions that she's treatable. Michael Schiavo's attorney tells an appellate court that's absurd.
By ANITA KUMAR
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 27, 2001
TAMPA -- Following countless court hearings, the case of Terri Schiavo is back where it started years ago -- tangled up in the complex medical question of whether the brain-damaged woman could ever improve.
Will she be able to talk? Will she be able to walk? And, most important, will she be able to feed herself?
Her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, have lined up seven doctors that claim her idle cells might "wake up" if she is put in an oxygen chamber and given the right drugs. Her husband, Michael Schiavo, said the treatments are ridiculous.
"My client does not want to subject his wife to unfounded experimental quackery," said Micheal Schiavo's attorney, George Felos. "No one says she can be cured."
The family's attorneys argued before the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Tampa on Wednesday, 11 years after the intense family feud began over whether Mrs. Schiavo should be kept on a feeding tube.
No decision was made, but the court must act quickly.
A Pinellas judge has ordered the removal of Mrs. Schiavo's feeding tube at 3 p.m. Oct. 9. The appeals court could affirm that date or order a hearing held about Mrs. Schiavo's medical condition.
This is the third time the case has come before the appellate court, but this time the arguments centered almost completely on the severity of Mrs. Schiavo's injury rather than on the legal issue of whether she would want life support.
The three-member panel peppered the attorneys with questions about her medical condition, often sounding more like doctors than judges. When Felos tried to steer the arguments back to the legal issue, the judges asked why Michael Schiavo won't allow the Schindlers' doctors to examine her.
Outside, protesters stood in the rain wearing black T-shirts that read "Not Dead Yet."
Patricia Anderson, the Schindlers' attorney, said Mrs. Schiavo responds to people with smiles and laughs, and deserves a chance at rehabilitation.
"I'm terribly afraid you are giving (her) parents some false hope," Judge Chris Altenbernd said. "But if it's true, it's dramatic."
Felos said numerous doctors and courts agree she is in a persistent vegetative state and cannot be cured. He said the Schindlers haven't offered brand new treatments -- or even older ones that are accepted by the medical community.
The hearing was the latest legal battle in a nationally publicized family feud that dates to Feb. 25, 1990, when Mrs. Schiavo collapsed from a heart attack and was deprived of oxygen for five minutes.
Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge George Greer repeatedly ruled that Mrs. Schiavo would want to die. He has declined to hold further hearings or allow additional doctors to evaluate Mrs. Schiavo.
The Schindlers and Schiavo have accused each other of trying to control Mrs. Schiavo's fate to get $700,000 she received from a 1992 malpractice suit. Only about half of that remains; much of it has been used to pay for Schiavo's legal expenses and Mrs. Schiavo's medical care.
Chief Judge John Blue told Felos the case troubled him because Mrs. Schiavo left no living will and because her husband, who would benefit financially, decided to fight his in-laws after allowing her to stay on life support for years.
"That's difficult for us," he said.