Judge Orders Schiavo Feeding Tube Removed

Judge Orders Schiavo Feeding Tube Removed (AP) [YahooNews, ABC ]

The presiding judge in the case of Terri Schiavo ruled Friday that the feeding tube keeping the brain-damaged woman alive must be removed, despite efforts by congressional Republicans to block the move by seeking her appearance at hearings. Pinellas Circuit Judge George Greer refused a request from U.S. House attorneys to delay the removal, which he had previously ordered to take place at 1 p.m. EST. Greer determined that it should go forward about an hour after another judge issued a temporary delay blocking the tube’s removal. “I have had no cogent reason why the (congressional) committee should intervene,” Greer told attorneys in a conference call, adding that last-minute action by Congress does not invalidate years of court rulings.

WaPo adds:

The judge’s order came during a telephone conference call in which an attorney for Michael Schiavo — Terri’s husband, who wants to remove the tube — participated from the hospice where Terri Schiavo is under care. Earlier in the day, Republican leaders in Congress issued subpoenas for Schiavo to appear before a hearing, thus requiring the hospice to keep her alive.

Greer refused a request from the House Government Reform Committee to temporarily delay the tube removal while an appeal of his order is lodged. “The fact that you — your committee — decided to do something today doesn’t create an emergency,” Greer told an attorney for the House committee.

While I maintain that Congress is acting unlawfully, not to mention stupidly, here, Greer’s explanation is rather odd. Presumably, the fact that a subpoenaed witness is about to die creates some sense of emergency in that her death would preclude her testimony. Of course, given that she’s medically incapable of testifying and will forevermore be thus is something of an obstacle as well.

Kevin Drum terms the congressional action “nauseating” and asks, “What are they going to do? Wheel her into a committee room under the klieg lights so the whole country can gape in wonderment at a comatose woman? Why not just set up a circus freak show on Capitol Hill and be done with it?” Rep. Henry Waxman agrees, saying, “Congress is turning the Schiavo family’s personal tragedy into a national political farce.” Strange bedfellows or no, I’m in agreement here.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bithead says:

    Two word comment:

    Judicial Oversight?

  2. FireWolf says:

    Captains Quarters mentioned this case being the next “Elian Gonzalez” case for the Congress.
    I too see this as nothing more than politics at play in Washington even tho I sympathize for terri and her parents.

    I see no reason why Michael Schiavo is still holding on to this case other than to exact revenge against Terri’s parents for him being villified in the public spotlight.

    It’s not a money issue, Michael would be freed from responsibility. This isn’t a marriage issue, Michael has another woman on the side. And this isn’t a right to die issue (Terri never had a living will and there is no proof something existed) The only thing I see this case as being, legally, is a spouses right to remove a feeding tube from a mentally retarded spouse.

    Congress may not have any legalities here, and probably shouldn’t be imposing their will in a state matter, but I think something should be done to protect Terri. Michael Schiavo, and that Judge who ordered the tubes removed certainly aren’t looking out for her.

  3. Jack Lewis says:

    James, 33 different medical professionals, including at least 9 neurologists, have said that she is not in a persistent vegetative state and could improve with therapy. Speech therapists who have examined her have said that she could talk, if allowed therapy.

    Now, where is your medical degree from?

  4. James Joyner says:

    Jack: There is a coterie of doctors who testify on the same side of a given issue for a living. It’s what they do. This case has been litigated for years, always with the same outcome.

  5. Jack Lewis says:

    James, the doctors who testified that she is in a PVS all…ALL have one of three things in common: They are well-known advocates of euthanasia, they are not a medical doctor, and/or they were hired by her adulterous husband and his euthanasia loving attorney. That not sound fishy to you?

  6. Bithead says:


    Crisis Mag:

    Crisis Magazine: ”

    The immediate cause of Terri’s brain damage was cardiac arrest, which caused her brain to be deprived of oxygen for more than five minutes. In January 1993, Michael Schiavo won a malpractice award of $1.6 million from the hospital that treated Terri. He was also personally awarded $600,000 for loss of consortium. In his testimony, Michael spoke of his love for his wife and his intentions to honor his wedding vows for the rest of his life and to use the award money for Terri’s care and rehabilitation. Indeed, Michael repeatedly assured Bob and Mary Schindler that he would seek rehabilitation therapy for Terri once he had obtained a settlement.
    A month after Michael received the money, the Schindlers approached their son-in-law to remind him of his promise. This led to a heated argument, with Bob and Michael yelling in the hall outside Terri’s room. Michael stormed off and vowed that he was going to see his lawyer and that Bob and Mary would “never see [their] daughter again.”

    Other sources:

    Terri info: Terri speaks
    According to Sherri’s sources “Terri Schiavo speaks!”
    When the Federal Marshal appeared at the hospice to serve subpoenas, they were accompanied by local police. In serving Terri, she was asked twice, “Do you want to live?” Twice, she responded, “Yes”.

    And again…

    Attorney Barbara Weller was with Terri earlier today. She told the media that, during her visit with Terri, she explained to her what was happening. According to Weller, Terri began to cry and could not be quieted.

  7. Wilson Kolb says:

    I wonder if anyone posting in this thread has any direct experience with the issue of whether or not to remove a feeding tube from a terminally ill person. I do, and as I watch the commentary on the Schiavo case I am struck by how ill-informed the discussion is.

    For example, the “starvation” issue. Someone whose feeding tube is removed doesn’t go through agony. It’s the other way around. When you remove a feeding tube, one of the first things to happen is that the person’s digestive system shuts down. This causes toxins to build up in the body, and one effect is euphoria.

    People whose feeding tubes are renmoved often rally for a brief time as a result. It’s a sort of Indian Summer. It typically lasts a couple of days before the person resumes the downhill slide. All the while, hospice care (also called “comfort care”) gives morphine to stabilize breathing. This is never a situation where the person cries out for a cheeseburger.

    Also, there’s been little commentary about the extent of Mrs. Schiavo’s brain damage. Her cortex is gone. She’s living on her limbic system. That video tape of her “smiling” is actually a tape of involuntary facial reflexes. Anyone who has sat by the bedside of a dying person knows what I mean.

    This situation is really loathesome. One thing we know is that the anti-abortion people who are behind the “Save Terri” movement are not going to be intervening in the other tens of thousands of similar cases. If they did so, they’d quickly realize how much money it would cost them, and they’d quickly shut up.

  8. Wilson Kolb says:

    By the way, the people who are telling tales of Mrs. Schiavo answering questions, and of crying when told of the decision, are lying. Anyone who actually reads the court record — everything is on the Internet for anyone to read — knows that Mrs. Schiavo has been brain dead for a long time and cannot speak or understand.

  9. Wilson, and you get that from the reliable source of George “kill the cripples” Felos and Michael “when is that b**ch gonna die?” Schiavo. Because there exists no valid, unbiased examination that conclusively shows she is brain-dead. The videos on her parents’ site do show her responding to people. Terri’s so-called husband will now, no longer allow her to be video taped.

  10. Wilson Kolb says:

    It’s remarkable, though not particularly surprising, to watch evangelical christians lie through their teeth about the Schiavo case. The truth is in the court documents.

  11. Smithers says:

    Those videos are five years old at this point.

  12. SarahB says:

    I am amazed at the attention that this case has recieved. I feel badly for both sides. I understand the desire of Terri’s parents to hold on to remnants of what is left of their daughter. On the other hand I can only shake my head at their denial of the facts. Terri had an eating disorder, a fact verified by several people who knew Terri, a fact that her parents deny. Doctors have monitored Terri’s condition since 1990. They all seem to agree that Terri isn’t really there anymore. It angers me that Jeb Bush is blindly beliving the opinion of one doctor that hasn’t even seen Terri, just looked at medical charts. I’m angry that people critcize Terri’s husband. I keep reading on blogs and posting boards that he should give over custody to her parents. I wonder if these people have considered that Maybe Michael isn’t doing that because he feels he is doing what’s best. Surely with all the bills that must have been accumualated, money is not the issue. While I know many people would want to be kept alive, I know that I would not want my husk of a body to be sustained long after my mind had gone. On another note, I am upset by the misleading picture of Terri smiling and gazing at her mother. Terri seemingly always has open eyes and a smile. Eye movement is just reflex. Let the poor woman go.

  13. LMFEDELE says:

    Hearsay is not admissable in court as evidence.
    why was Michael SCHIAVOs hearsay on Terris wishes allowed in court?

  14. James Joyner says:

    Actually, hearsay is repeating a third party statement, not what you heard yourself.

    Otherwise, a bank teller’s testimony that a robber told her to give him the money or he’ll shoot would be hearsay. Or an eyewitness’ account of what he heard said in any crime.

  15. Laura says:

    Please forgive me if it appears I’m speaking ignorantly. Would someone explain to me how feeding or hydrating BY MOUTH is prohibited by the court ruling? For some reason, I thought the issue was (supposedly) that she wouldn’t want to be kept alive “by extraordinary/artificial means.”

  16. SarahB says:

    It isn’t prohibited, butI don’t believe she is capable of swallowing which is why she had a feeding tube

  17. Summers says:

    I am so sick of the supposed “facts” that keep getting distorted by the “right to lifers”. The factual settlement on this case was $1 million bucks. $300k went to Michael for loss of consortium and the balance $700k was put into trust for Terri’s care. All but $40 or 50k of that trust has been spent. The issue here is what would Terri want. How many people out there have a living will. No one that I know of until now. Even a living will would not stop the contentious situation that exists here as you still need proxies. Anyone who wanted to could withhold the living will as it is not required to be on file with a lawyer. On the issue of doctors…let’s face it…the doctors are either pro choice or pro life. It seems to me the pro life doctors err on the side of statements that border on insanity when they state that Terri is speaking or that she is aware. Come on she has no cerebral cortex it is liquified. Now all of you who think she should go on…look in the mirror and ask yourself would you want to go on like that. She isn’t just disabled, Stephen Hawkings is disabled but has a quality of life; Christopher Reeve was disabled but was totally able to have a quality of life. Terri is not able to move, to leave her bed, to interact with anyone in any meaningful way, to sit up without some assistance if at all, to react, to eat, or have any even a minimal quality of life. To lie in bed day in and day out with twisted limbs and a perpetual smile on a frozen face is not quality living. No one would allow their pet to be lying in bed with twisted limbs, defecating on themselves in their bed, unable to move, to go on. That is what the cruelty is here. Let this poor woman go on to a better life. Let her parents move on and let go of her physical body. If you love someone that is what you do.

  18. Cheryl Lynch says:

    Dear James,
    I feel guardianship should have been given to her parents who love her rather than her adultres husband. He has had the choice like all of us to divorce if he’s not happy, however, he chooses to have an adultress afair including children. Starvation and dehydration have always been know to be one of the most painful ways to die. How does anyone know what Teri thinks or feels, if anything at all. Not a very humane way of doing it. Scott peterson and others who are given death sentences are dying in a more humane way then Terri. How is that right? I truly feel if Terri was ready to pass on she would have by now. How easy it would be for her to just let go but after 10 days she’s still with us. Hmmmm……

  19. Jessica Bessler says:

    It is not for men to decide to take a life–any life–except as defense. If Terri could eat through her mouth, would you stop bringing her dinner? No. So why cease to give her food through her stomach? The only difference is that the food does not pass through her mouth first, but directly enters her stomach. This is NOT the same as keeping someone alive through artificial means.
    Terri is still alive and is still deserving of the rights of all men, including the right to eat and drink, even if she has to eat and drink a little differently than all of us. I hear people keep saying, “Would you want to live like that? It is a merciful act to take out her feeding tube.”
    That sort of philosophy has its root in selfishness and places man as the author of life, rather than God. We need to allow God to do with our lives as he will and humbly accept whatever suffering he may wish us to endure. Let God who gave Terri life decide when to take Terri’s life.

  20. Nicholas Rueger says:

    Maybe God did this on purpose to see the reactions of us. How we would feel on the subject. Maybe God wants us to realize something about ourselves and others through the life of Terri Shiavo. Maybe Terri is a messenger. Even though we all feel bad for her our government won’t do anything to stop the murder. Everybody felt bad for Jesus but who stopped him from being Crucified…..And noone should have the right over someones life neither spouse or parent only God.

  21. Karen says:

    Why doesn’t her husband allow video tape? What is he afraid of? If Terri can be given water or applesauce, then she is able to sustain herself without artificial means. But no one is trying, everyone is just giving up on her. She left no living will and therefore assumptions should not be made as law as to what she would have wanted. What about the affidavits of Nurse Law, why weren’t they made public.

  22. Sammi says:

    you know what makes me sick is all these people out here that are saying “let the woman go” so basically can you tell me if that was THEIR daughter or son in this situation THEY would say those exact words “let them go” , NO,its easier said than done. I agree fully with Jessica Bessler you GO GIRL. How can you sit their and say that and not be in her parents shoes you know darn good and well if that was your daughter you would be trying to hang on as well.

  23. michele d crow says:


  24. SarahB says:

    The lesson that can be learned from all of this is MAKE A LIVING WILL. While I personally believe that Terri should be let go, whether you agree with that or not, it is important to let people know what you want. As I said earlier, if Terri’s husband wanted and easy out, he could have turned custody over to her parents and been married, but he didn’t. There is little to gain financially since most of the money is exhausted into hospital care. BUT he stuck to his guns and is fighting for what he thinks Terri wants. I’m actually pretty tired of hearing what a bad person he is. Why are her parents so glorified in all of this? Suppose Terri really wanted to die (and I’m not absolutly saying she did) who would be the bad guy here? Unfortunatley, we don’t have an official document stating on e way or another. To those of you who say God or whoever is the only one who gets decide who lives and dies is deluding themselves. Individuals, groups, goverrnments, lots of factors go into who lives and dies. I t happens every day. If we left every occurence in our lives to God, Earth would be like Lord of the Flies.

  25. PLF says:

    Is it possible to publicly threaten Michael Shiavo and the judges involved with a Conspiracy to Murder case or an actual murder case, if worse comes to worst? Maybe this
    threat would make them change. They would have to go to court if accused of a crime , is it not, like Michael Jackson? Isn’t it a crime to
    threaten to kill someone? I feel we should try to do something practical to
    save this situation instead of just feeling sorry or resigned.
    Can anyone send me (at so*********@ya***.in) the e-mail addresses of Terri Shiavo’s parents and brother and sister and lawyer and Rev. Michael Jackson or any other promininent concerned people? Thanks.


  26. PLF says:

    In my previous letter just posted I meant of course, Rev. Jesse Jackson. Sorry about that slip.
    This whole situation is indeed a test and lesson for all of us, but let us pray that God’s HIGHEST Will be done so we can know that whatever happens is for the Best. I wish a Miracle would happen here as well as with the health of the Pope so the world could see the Power of sincere collective Prayer and selfless Love. It would be a great Blessing to the Soul of the World.
    America and the whole world needs to learn the Law of Love. Only when all judges are ruled by that can real Divine Justice be done.