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    5 more doctors to examine Schiavo

    An appeals court orders the review to determine whether Terri Schiavo can recover from brain damage.

    By WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published October 18, 2001


    Five doctors will be allowed to examine Terri Schiavo to determine whether she can ever recover from the brain damage that has left her in a persistent vegetative state for 11 years.

    The 2nd District Court of Appeal on Wednesday ordered the review, handing Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, a legal victory in their long quest to keep their 37-year-old daughter alive.

    The appeals court decision said two of the doctors will be chosen by the Schindlers and two by Mrs. Schiavo's husband, Michael Schiavo, who seeks her removal from life support and has refused to allow the Schindlers' doctors to examine his wife.

    The final physician is to be unconnected to the case and selected by both sides. If the sides can't agree, the appeals court ordered Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge George Greer to make the pick.

    Once the examinations are complete, Greer must hold a hearing to consider the doctors' testimony and other evidence. To successfully stop Michael Schiavo's effort to end his wife's life, doctors must show that she has a chance to regain cognitive function with treatment, the appeals court said.

    A three-judge panel of the appeals court said it "must express skepticism" at previous assertions of a doctor hired by the Schindlers that their daughter's condition might one day improve.

    The court, referring to that doctor and others who dispute that Mrs. Schiavo is in an irreversible vegetative state, said, "it is difficult for judges untrained in any medical specialty to summarily reject their opinions without additional evidence."

    "We're just elated that Terri's going to get this medical attention," Bob Schindler said.

    Attorney George Felos, representing Michael Schiavo, said his client is unhappy at another delay in the case.

    "But my client's first reaction is: bring on the doctors," Felos said. "He doesn't think it's going to make a difference if one or five or 500 doctors examine her. The conclusion will be the same. She's in a vegetative state and has no hope of recovery."

    "Before you put someone to death because of a medical condition, it's a good idea to ascertain what that medical condition is," said attorney Pat Anderson, who represents the Schindlers.

    But Felos said doctors already have examined Mrs. Schiavo and said she could not recover, though those doctors were not hired by the parents.

    Felos predicted it would take nine months or longer for doctors to examine Mrs. Schiavo and for the judge to then hold a hearing and make a decision.

    Terri Schiavo fell into her persistent vegetative state on Feb. 25, 1990, when she collapsed from a heart attack and was deprived of oxygen for five minutes.

    Judge 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 Michael 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.

    While Schiavo says there is no hope for his wife's recovery, the Schindlers say their daughter recognizes and responds to them when they visit.

    The appeals court had earlier extended an Oct. 9 deadline for removing Mrs. Schiavo's feeding tube. Without the tube, doctors say, she would die within two weeks.

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