Kidnapping Terri Schiavo?
State officials say they are considering removing Terri Schiavo from the hospice, by force if necessary, despite numerous court orders upholding the removal of the artificial nutrition tube that has kept her alive for 15 years. Lucy Hadi, secretary of the Department of Children and Families, said Wednesday morning that her staff is relying on a state law that gives the department the authority to intervene on behalf of a vulnerable adult who is Ã¢€œsuffering from abuse or neglect that presents a risk of death or serious physical injury.Ã¢€ Hadi said that DCF would have to file a petition in order to remove Schiavo, but Ã¢€œit doesnÃ¢€™t mean that weÃ¢€™d have to have judicial approval in advance of taking the action if we believed it met the threshold for doing it.Ã¢€
Fortunately, Michael Schiavo’s attorney anticipated this move and has gotten a restraining order against the DCF:
A state judge issued an emergency order Wednesday to keep the Department of Children & Families from taking any action that would reconnect Terri SchiavoÃ¢€™s feeding tube. George Felos, the attorney for Michael Schiavo, asked Pinellas Circuit Judge George Greer to issue the order Wednesday while the judge considers a request from DCF and Gov. Bush to take custody of Terri Schiavo.
One presumes Jeb Bush will honor this judicial order. Regardless of how one feels about this case, the last thing we need is an Elian Gonzalez moment.
Update (1850): Apparently, Bush is still going to try to gain “custody” of Terri but via legal means:
Terri Schiavo’s parents saw their options vanish one by one Wednesday as a federal appeals court refused to reinsert her feeding tube and the Florida Legislature decided not to intervene in the epic struggle. Refusing to give up, Gov. Jeb Bush sought court permission to take custody of Schiavo.
Jeb Bush and the state’s social services agency filed a petition in state court to take custody of Schiavo and, presumably, reconnect her feeding tube. It cites new allegations of neglect and challenges Schiavo’s diagnosis as being in a persistent vegetative state. The request is based on the opinion of a neurologist working for the state who observed Schiavo at her bedside but did not conduct an examination of her.
The Florida Legislature also jumped back into the fray, but senators rejected a bill that would have prohibited patients like Schiavo from being denied food and water if they did not express their wishes in writing. The measure was rejected 21-18. The Legislature stepped in before, in 2003, and Schiavo’s feeding tube was reinserted. But “Terri’s Law” was later struck down by the state Supreme Court as an unconstitutional attempt to interfere in the courts.
While I find the idea of the state trying to assert custodial rights after over a decade of litigation outrageous, trying to do so via the legal process is at least less obscene than a unilateral decision to kidnap her.