Kidnapping Terri Schiavo?

Michael Demmons points to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution Breaking News report that the State of Florida is considering taking Terri Schiavo by force despite years of court orders:

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 “suffering from abuse or neglect that presents a risk of death or serious physical injury.†Hadi said that DCF would have to file a petition in order to remove Schiavo, but “it doesn’t mean that we’d have to have judicial approval in advance of taking the action if we believed it met the threshold for doing it.â€

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 Schiavo̢۪s 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:

Gov. Bush Seeks to Take Custody of Schiavo (AP)

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.

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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. billy says:

    that woman “hadi” from dcfs who said she may take her regardless of a court decision has clearly commited a conspiracy to commit kidnapping and jeb is probably involved too. why dont these criminals get indicted.

  2. Anderson says:

    I think the last resort is to declare Ms. Schiavo an “enemy combatant” and fly her to Gitmo.

  3. Mr Steak says:

    Why don’t you climb in a cage and starve yourself to death

  4. Roger says:

    I am so glad that the New York Times and other similar publications have noted that starving and dehydrating someone to death is a euphoric and dignified experience. All these years states have been electrocuting or injecting people to death. Now these states could just starve and dehydrate people on death row, as well as unwanted animals. I’m sure this would fly with the ACLU, PETA and other similar groups now that the New York Times is ok to do this to an innocent human being who is conscious of what is happening to her body. The fact that we as a society are allowing this to happen just because some judge said it’s ok is outrageous. This shows me that a certain number of my compatriots no longer know what is right and what is wrong. They wait for a judge to tell them.

  5. Just Me says:

    I actually have no issues with the State trying to gain custody through legal means. I doubt it will work, but it is still a legal means.

    “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.”

    Okay, I may have misunderstood somewhere along the way in all these discussions, but I thought the Cruzan decision prohibited this.

    I think it is probably too late for the state legislature to do anything for Terri, but it isn’t too late for them to fill in some of the gaps that led to some of the current issues. I think one thing they should do, is when a case like this where there is no living will, and disagreement among family members as to the wishes of the incapacitated person, that the state appoint an attorney to represent the interest of that person only throughout the whole litigation proccess.

  6. Jeff Crump says:

    I have five quotes from Shakespeare that summarize what I think is happening with Terri Schiavo …

    What’s done cannot be undone.
    — Macbeth, Act V, sc. i

    The law hath not been dead, though it hath slept.
    — Measure for Measure, Act II, sc. ii

    The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.
    — As You Like It, Act V, sc. i

    Men’s evil manners live in brass; their virtues
    We write in water.
    — Henry VIII, Act IV, sc. ii

    The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.
    — Henry VI, Part 2, Act IV, sc. ii

  7. John Burgess says:

    I was pleased to learn from the office of my Florida state representative that her office had been deluged with calls advising her to stay the hell away from what the governor was trying to do. Most of the calls, reportedly, were quite strong in their comments. Seeing that this is a Republican district and that the representative is a Republican, this augers well.

  8. Jim G. says:

    Honest question.

    Do you believe, in a criminal court, that Terri would be sentanced to death based on the same “quality” of evidence used in this civil case?

    If so, do you believe that an appeals court would not order a re-trial if new evidence was revealed?

    What would the position be of the MSM and the ACLU, if this were a criminal conviction?

  9. Just Me says:

    “Do you believe, in a criminal court, that Terri would be sentanced to death based on the same “quality” of evidence used in this civil case?”

    Well no, but then the standard for proof in a civil court is not the same as for a criminal court, so the question is somewhat moot.

    It does beg the question as to wether or not for these cases the standard of proof should be higher, but that is something that the legislatures would have to do, and a change like that would certainly head to the courts on legal challenges.

    But the reasonable doubt standard is applicable to criminal courts not civil ones.

  10. vicki dunbar says:

    I am sick to my stomach knowing that Michael has gotten away with killing an innocent, helpless woman. I cannot believe that the courts are intent on killing this woman, only siding with the husband, who by living with another woman obviously has a conflict of interest. As for all participants of this murder, husband, judge greer and cowardly courts, and lawyers, my comfort lies with the knowledge that they someday will explain this murder to a much higher, holier judge, Jesus Christ. I pray he gives them the justice they all deserve. Vicki Dunbar

  11. Anthony says:

    This poor woman has been dead for years with no chance of recovery, it’s time that all you overly conservatives shut your yapper and let the poor woman die in peace.

  12. Stephanie says:

    Robert Latimer was sentanced to prison for the death of his severely disabelled daughter. His daughter could not communicate and was not able to say whether she wanted to be kept alive, Why is that case any different. The Judges should and her husband should be given the same sentance. They are killing Terri for the same reasons.