Welcome to GulfCoastNews.comGCN Guest Opinion    Filed 3/26/05

Death By Government

The Mainstream Press Would Have You Believe Terri Schiavo’s Case Had Been Fully Investigated And Adjudicated. However, The Testimony Of Numerous Doctors, Nurses, Therapists, And Guardian Ad Litem Tell Otherwise.

By Perry Hicks - Special to GCN - Updated 3/31/05 (Terri Dies)

Killing Terri Schiavo by definition cannot be considered murder as starving and dehydrating her to death was completely legal - having been literally ordered by Florida 6th Circuit Court Judge George W. Greer.  However, killing an innocent and, in my view, possibly abused woman is nothing short of monstrous and bodes ill for the well-being of America’s infirm.

It is also indicative of the forces arrayed before each other on America’s political battlefield.  The Terri Schiavo case has made it much clearer how demographics are really drawn between those who have faith, particularly Judeo-Christian, and those who would drive out every vestige of religion from the public discourse.

As GCN publisher and journalist Keith Burton explains, “This latest action is part of a trend. As government moves away from religion as the foundation for our laws, it has no choice but to redefine laws to a new standard; one which seems to be based on economics and broadly accepted states of mind and behavior.

“Basically, life is being redefined in the U.S. not as something beneficial to the individual, but whether an individual is beneficial to others. If you are not beneficial to others, ie. talking and working, you have no right to life. Terri Schiavo had two strikes against her. In the traditional sense, she cannot communicate effectively, nor can she contribute to society. The Schiavo case marks a far reaching philosophical change that will have profound effect on all of us.

“If the government cannot ascertain that you have an acceptable state of mind, you have no right to life. The decisions that have been reached on Terri Schiavo have ignored the one testimony that she does yet demonstrate…life. And that should have been enough to prevent Death by Government.

“To this day, science cannot define how, or why, life exists in the living- only that it does. Nor can any of us say what it is that makes us alive, however manifestly evident. Just because someone cannot speak or follow a command, or do any work, or recognize a person or object, the mystery of what makes a person alive remains and government  should do all it can to protect that life,” said Burton

If Judge Greer or husband Michael Schiavo think that Terri’s death will make all of the media attention go away they had better think again.  Justice for Terri has become a cause celeb. Terri’s case has been extensively reported on by nearly every major print publication and explored extensively by the nation’s premier talk radio personalities; such as Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly. Even the king of talk radio, Rush Limbaugh, weighed in devoting not just a few segments, but entire days to Terri’s plight.

With that kind of pubic interest one may rest assured that this case will be turned over and over and will be investigated for years, if not decades, to come.  At some point the truth how Terri collapsed, how she was treated by her husband, and how she died will come out.  Michael Schiavo had best forget about ever having again a moment of peace.  For him, there will simply be no moving on.

Murder Investigation Aborted

The police report for Terri’s mysterious February 25th 1990 collapse indicate that a homicide investigation was initiated but since there was no apparent trauma and their apartment had no sign of violence, police queries into the matter were dropped.  Terri’s heart appeared to have simply stopped beating long enough to have caused her serious brain injury. The prevailing theory put very simply is that Terri’s bulimia may have caused a precipitous drop in her potassium levels which stopped her heart from beating. The minutes her brain went without oxygen resulted in the neural damage she suffers to this day.

This is where the facts of the case become quite murky but two points remain crystal clear:  Florida law considers feeding tubes to be artificial life support and Michael Schiavo, however belatedly, recalled that his wife did not want to exist in a vegetative state like the earlier case of Karen Ann Quinlan.

Who Do You Want To Believe?

Broadly speaking, facts are established in an initial trial and so are very difficult if not impossible to overturn thereafter.  Hence, it is supremely important to get it right the first time.  In the Schiavo case, the “facts” were established without benefit of testimony available in later years and so it became quite easy during later motions for Judge Greer to exclude anything that would not lead directly to Terri’s death.  Contradicting testimony by doctors, nurses, and therapists were deemed to be sources that were simply “not credible.”  At that point, appeals courts are then limited to rendering judgments based on legal merit alone.

Case Notes & Timeline

A synopsis of the case as reported by WorldNetDaily runs the equivalent of 26 pages and over 8000 words; far too expansive to detail here. However, the more salient points of the WND article are important to note:

  • Terri’s collapse occurred in February 1990.  Michael Schiavo blames the collapse on a potassium imbalance despite testimony by a neurologist that Terri arrived at the hospital with a neck injury. The Schindlers, Terri’s parents, theorize that Michael may have tried to strangle her.
  • Michael Schiavo, his brother, and his sister-in-law claim Terri made “casual” statements that she would not want to be kept alive artificially. [Note: Under Florida law feeding tubes are considered artificial life support.]
  • Statements attributed to Terri by her friend, Diane Meyer, about the Karen Ann Quinlan case was ruled by Judge Greer to not fit a factual time-line. Greer ruled that Terri could not have made those statements about Quinlan in 1982 as Meyer testified because Greer believed Quinlan died in 1976 when Terri was but 11 or 12 years old. [Note: Quinlan in fact collapsed in 1975 and after a considerable court battle was taken off her respirator only to continue breathing on her own. Quinlan died of pneumonia in 1985. An autopsy showed that her cardiac arrest had not caused severe damage to her cerebral cortex as doctors had thought but instead, the thalamus.]
  • The Schindlers state that Michael never claimed Terri would not want to live- until after winning a $2 million malpractice settlement. Schiavo petitioned to have Terri’s feeding tube removed in 1998.  In 1992, WND reports that Schiavo pleaded that he wanted to take care of his wife for the rest of her life and was studying nursing so that he could do so in their home. He asked for $20 million to cover her medical expenses and estimated her life expectancy to be 50 years.
  • As reported by WND, Michael Schiavo told the court in 1992, "I believe in my wedding vows. ... I believe in the vows I took with my wife, through sickness, in health, for richer or poor. I married my wife because I love her and I want to spend the rest of my life with her. I'm going to do that."
  • A woman Schiavo reportedly dated for a year in 1992, Cindy Shook, gave the Schindlers a deposition in 2001 stating that Michael told her "How the hell should I know? We never spoke about this. My God, I was only 25 years old. How the hell should I know? We were young. We never spoke of this."
  • Michael Schiavo is engaged to another woman and has had 2 children by this other woman.
  • On the strength of Cindy’s testimony, Civil Court Judge Frank Quesada ordered Terri’s feeding tube reinserted in 2001.
  • $1.3 million was placed in a medical trust fund to care for Terri. [Note: Electronic copies of affidavits from nurses and a physical therapist that that Michael Schiavo had ordered Terri not to receive rehabilitative therapy to include being taken outdoors, have windows open have a radio playing, have television, receive medical treatment for infections, or have her wheel chair repaired.]
  • Michael was awarded $600 thousand to compensate him for his loss.
  • Michael Schiavo’s primary attorney, George Felos, was paid fees totaling $358,434. A second attorney, Deborah Bushnell was paid $80,309. WND reports only $50 thousand of the malpractice award remains.
  • WND continues on to report that in the early years when Terri did receive therapy she had progressed to the point that she would say “yes,” “no,” “mommy,” “stop that,” and express pain. [Note: Supported by electronic copies of affidavits.]  Michael Schiavo insists that Terri has not spoken a word since 1990.
  • In 2001, an appellate court ordered Terri reevaluated by 5 doctors- 2 selected by Schiavo, 2 selected by the Schindlers, and 1 selected by Judge Greer. The 2 petitioned by Schiavo’s attorney as well as the doctor petitioned by Greer testified that Terri remained in a persistent vegetative state. The doctors petitioned by the Schindlers testified that Terri was not in PVS. Interestingly enough, WND reported that one of the two Schiavo doctors was a medical ethicist and proponent of euthanasia, Ronald Cranford. WND goes on to report that Cranford is a member of the board of directors for the Choice In Dying Society that promotes doctor assisted suicide. He was also a guest speaker at the Hemlock Society, now called the End Of Life Choices. In 1997 Cranford wrote a piece for the Minneapolis Star Tribune titled “When A Feeding Tube Borders On Barbaric.”
  • Court documents show that persistent vegetative state is misdiagnosed 40-60% of the time. [Note: Cranford may have misdiagnosed a policeman shot in the line of duty.  Cranford reportedly diagnosed  Sgt. David Mack as “definitely in a persistent vegetative state….never to regain cognitive, sapient functioning….”  Sgt. Mack awoke some 20 months later and is reported elsewhere to have eventually gotten back nearly all of is mental faculties.]


  • Schindler’s attorney, George Felos is himself a right-to-die proponent and was the legal counsel for another high-profile Florida right-to-die case.


Everything Hinges On The Tube

Video released by the Schindlers showing Terri interacting with her family members has been disputed by Michael Schiavo’s expert witnesses as evidence that Terri has retained any cognition what so ever. To them, Terri is unable to think or feel and was kept “artificially” alive by the feeding tube [Note: The tube has been reported by neurologist Dr. William Hammesfhar to be the source of Terri’s nourishment only by order of Judge Greer. Greer has rejected motions from the Schindlers to give Terri new swallowing tests. Documents state that she has not had one since 1993.]

Consider the madness in that a 10 year old has recently been arrested for attempting to give Terri a cup of water.

Electronic copies of affidavits from medical doctors, nurses, nursing assistants, a speech therapist, and the testimony of 2 court appointed guardians ad litem tell a far different tale than those recognized by the court.

For example, one time caregiver and certified nursing assistant, Heidi Law, stated in her affidavit that she spoon fed Terri small amounts of Jell-O which Terri seemed to enjoy immensely. Law also states that she would put cloths soaked in juice to Terri’s mouth as to give her “something nice to taste,” which according to Law, “made her (Terri) happy.”

Indeed, Sara Green-Mele, a speech therapist, stated in her affidavit that Terri “has sufficient swallowing ability to handle her own secretions…” and went on to say that “it has been my experience that patients similar to Terri have been able to handle their own food intake…”


Conflict Of Interest?

Another report by WorldNetDaily attempts to answer the question as to why would Greer refuse to acknowledge his error on the matter of statements Terri made in regard to Karen Ann Quinlan, and why he will not re-examine the case given such new voluminous testimony regarding Terri’s cognition and ability to take food in orally?

According to WND, numerous abuse investigations by Florida’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) have been quashed. The reason, WND suggests, is political corruption.

  • WND sites that DCF attorney Frank Nagatani was a 1998 contributor to the re-election campaign of Judge George Greer.
  • The law firm of Felos & Felos contributed to Judge Greer’s re-election campaign in 2004 just 1 day after appellate Judge Baird ruled Florida’s Terri’s Law unconstitutional.
  • When the Schindlers subpoenaed a DCF investigator in 2002, Judge Greer indicated that he knew about the DCF report but granted Shiavo attorney’s  motion to quash the subpoena.


Claims of Abuse

The complaints the Schindlers have about Terri’s lack of care that they contend are abuse as indicated in electronic copies of affidavits are:

  • Michael Schiavo has not permitted rehabilitative therapy since 1992.
  • Michael Schiavo has not permitted swallowing tests or swallowing therapy since 1993.
  • Michael Schiavo has not allowed Terri’s teeth to be cleaned since 1995 which has caused her to have 5 teeth removed in 2004.
  • Michael Shiavo has refused to allow Terri to leave her room since 2000.
  • Michael Shiavo ordered doctors not to treat infections which on at least one occasion they refused to obey.
  • Michael Shiavo has moved Terri from one nursing facility to another when staff began to insist that Terri would benefit from therapy.
  • Certified Nursing Assistant Heidi Law stated in her affidavit that “It was particularly distressing that we always had to be afraid that if Michael got upset he would take it out on Terri.”
  • Licensed Practical Nurse Carla Sauer Iyer in her affidavit accused Michael Schiavo of injecting Terri with insulin and states that she reported an incident to the police in 1993 (The cause of her dismissal.) Furthermore, she states that she was told by the nursing home, Palm Gardens, that she would obey Michael Schiavo’s orders or else would be terminated. Iyer then describes how everyone at the home was intimidated by Michael and that “He is very large and uses menacing body language, such as standing too close to you, getting right in your face and practically shouting. Nurse Iyer also stated that whenever she put something positive in Terri’s record, it was later removed. Iyer concluded her affidavit stating that “while at Palm Gardens I became fearful for my personal safety…”
  • Trudy Capone, one time friend of Michael Schiavo, gave an affidavit stating that “Michael went crazy on me when I ended our friendship because he was calling me so much I needed more space.”  Capone describes how Michael confided in her how he did not know what to do with Terri and that he seemed very interested in money and material things. She also stated toward the end of the affidavit that “I just feel that he was very sick and unstable and did not know what he would do.”
  • Certified Nursing Assistant {Redacted} Johnson stated that the events she described dated back to 1993 while employed at the Sabal Palms nursing home. On employment she was told to obey Michael Schiavo’s orders or be fired. Johnson related how Michael had directed Terri not to receive therapy. Johnson stated that “This surprised me, as I did not think a guardian could go against a doctor’s orders like that, but I was assured that a guardian could and this guardian had gone against Terri’s doctors orders.”
  • Depositions given by radiologist Dr. William Campbell Walker and neurologist Dr. William Hammesfahr describe evidence of Terri having had broken bones in the L1 area of the neck, ribs, and a femur. Schiavo’s attorneys dispute this explaining that what the doctors are seeing is actually bone deterioration due to her bedridden state.
  • However, Dr. William Hammesfahr in his deposition stated under questioning that he had only seen the rigid neck injury Terri exhibits in but one other patient.

Q: What was the cause of the injury in the other patient?

A: That person had an anoxic encephalous due to attempted strangulation.

  • Widely reported in the media is Michael Schiavo’s reaction to Congressional efforts to spare Terri’s life.  Schiavo sarcastically invited both Governor Bush and President Bush to “…visit Terri Schiavo.” Michael went on to ask, "Instead of worrying about my wife, who was granted her wishes by the state courts the past seven years, they should worry about the pedophiles killing young girls," Schiavo said, referring to a local case. "Why doesn't Congress worry about people not having health insurance? Or the Budget? Lets talk about the children who don’t have homes.”

Michael Schiavo then went on to refer to House Majority Leader Tom Delay a “little slithering snake pandering for votes.”


Forces Arrayed

Accepting momentarily the argument that Terri Schiavo is essentially brain-dead, unable to think or feel much less interact with her environment, one must ask, why be in such a rush to see her die?  Why perpetrate on Terri’s parents, Mary and Robert Schindler, the inhuman cruelty of having to watch their daughter starve to death? Recall Dr.Cranford’s “When A Feeding Tube Borders On Barbaric.”

This question is perplexing in that the Schindlers have begged Michael Schiavo to let them assume the financial and practical responsibility of caring for Terri for the rest of her natural life.  And while some have suggested a monetary motive for killing her, this notion is partly negated by reports suggesting that the malpractice settlement money has about run out.

Of course, if we are going to indulge in speculation, even if true, this does not exclude the possibility that Terri’s life may have been well insured, or that Michael could one day enjoy some celebrity status (read $) for defending his wife’s right to die.

In neither case can we explain the zeal to which proponents have sided with Michael and the court system.

Rest assured the right-to-die crowd will be ecstatic now that Terri is finally dead.  Many in this group are virulent atheists that fume at the loss of last year’s national election, that Bush is a born-again Christian, and that Mel Gibson’s Passion of The Christ succeeded against such critical derision. In Terri’s death, their side can finally exalt in having finally won a battle.

And don’t tell me this isn’t true. I have heard it directly from members of this community who chide Delay and Bush and other “Jeezus luvers.”  Just let the poor woman stop suffering through this miserable life, they have demanded rhetorically.

Note the use of “this” rather than “her” miserable life.  The one thread that I have noted through all of their rantings is how hopeless their own lives are.  As they get older they have no vision for any kind of future- only the gradual decline of age and their own inevitable, lonely and darkly absolute end.  It is as if Terri’s continuance on earth would be a painful and constant reminder of how purposeless and even loveless their lives have been.

Even with the great amount of material available today, we haven’t heard all there is to hear about the tragedy of Terri Schindler Schiavo.

For More information:

An Undignified End - The Bitterness Over Terri Schiavo’s Court-ordered Starvation and Dehydration Will Not End With Her Death - By Perry Hicks   Filed 4/3/05

Terri Schiavo Dies - 3/31/05



Perry Hicks is a former Mississippi Coast resident and was a correspondent for the old Gulfport Star Journal. He has appeared on Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor.” Perry has also hosted his own radio talk show on the auto industry with a mix of politics. Perry is a frequent contributor to GCN. His articles can be found in the GCN Archive.

Contact the Author: arielsquarefour@hotmail.com

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