All Press Releases for February 28, 2005

Disability Advocates Shocked by Judge Greer\'s Order of Execution for Terri Schiavo

Disability advocates are shocked that the latest ruling in the Schiavo case orders the time and date of her exection. The ruling has chilling implications for Terri Schiavo and many other people with disabilities.

    For Immediate Release
February 28, 2005
Contact: Diane Coleman or Stephen Drake
708-209-1500 ext 11 and 29, 708-420-0539 (c)

Disability Advocates Shocked By Judge Greer's
Order of Execution for Terri Schiavo

/ - February 28, 2005 - In a shocking move, Judge George Greer ordered court-appointed guardian Michael Schiavo to begin starving and dehydrating Terri Schiavo on March 18, 2005 at 1:00 p.m. "This is not simply a court order removing a judicial stay and allowing the guardian to proceed as he sees fit," said Diane Coleman, President of Not Dead Yet, which was joined by sixteen other national disability rights groups in three amicus briefs filed in support of Terri Schiavo's right to food and water.

"Judge Greer's exact language is, 'Ordered and Adjudged that absent a stay from the appellate courts, the guardian, Michael Schiavo, shall cause the removal of nutrition and hydration from the ward, Theresa Marie Schiavo, at 1:00 p.m. on Friday, March 18, 2005,'" said Coleman, quoting from the three page order. ( "This is an order of execution."

But the new issues before the guardianship court are as significant as new DNA evidence in a criminal case. In fact, the new evidence affects not only Terri Schiavo, but thousands of others. How can it be ignored?

First, there is the scientific journal article in Neurology, calling into question previous methods for diagnosing persistent vegetative state (PVS), the simple bedside examinations done by all the "experts" in the Schiavo case, now proven to result in inaccurate diagnoses of PVS in 30 to 43% of cases. The previous testimony of medical experts on either side of the controversy is insufficient to justify the Court's rulings that Terri Schiavo is unconscious. How can updated and scientifically valid testing procedures be rejected? Every person diagnosed in PVS should benefit from the new testing protocols, especially before a guardian is permitted to withhold food and water from someone who left no advance directive indicating preferences for who their guardian should be or what treatments they would want. These tests may even help identify ways that Ms. Schiavo can communicate.

Not Dead Yet has called for a moratorium on the starvation and dehydration of all people diagnosed in PVS, unless they have an advance directive, until such new diagnostic procedures are followed.

Secondly, the belated intervention of the Florida Department of Children and Families is significant. That no-doubt-under-funded agency is responsible for the protection of people in guardianship, and should be given the opportunity to investigate allegations of both pre-injury abuse and guardianship neglect. The post-injury neglect is undeniable. Michael Schiavo pledged in testimony, but was not ordered by any court, to use $700,000 of a malpractice award for Ms. Schiavo's care and rehabilitation. By Judge Greer's orders, over $500,000 of those funds have been spent on lawyers fees to win Schiavo the right to starve and dehydrate his wife, and Ms. Schiavo has been deprived not only of rehabilitation, but basic attention and stimulation for many years, except from her parents and siblings.
"This has broader implications," said Stephen Drake, research analyst for Not Dead Yet. "You read a lot about the problems faced by over-burdened caregivers these days. Senior and disability advocates are fighting a political battle for more in-home support services to address that, but in the meantime, meaningful protections against guardian abuse and neglect are needed. All branches of government are responsible for that. If one branch fails, as Judge Greer has, then another branch must step in."

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Stephen Drake
Not Dead Yet
Forest Park, IL
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