Tags: State | Told | Not | Enforce | Law | Protect | Terri

State Told Not to Enforce Law to Protect Terri

Thursday, 24 March 2005 12:00 AM

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said the new information "raises serious concerns and warrants immediate action.

"Terri is now going on her sixth day without food or water," Gov. Bush told reporters Wednesday afternoon. "It is imperative that she be stabilized so that the adult protective services team can fulfill their statutory duty and thoroughly review all the facts surrounding her case."

One member of the media asked if the state Department of Children and Families (DCF) planned to take Terri Schiavo into protective custody, remove her from the hospice where she is being dehydrated and starved to death or try to reinsert her feeding and hydration tube.

"We are looking at every potential opportunity to be of assistance," replied DCF Secretary Lucy Hadi.

That response apparently prompted the attorney for Terri's estranged husband and legal guardian, Michael Schiavo, to contact Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge George Greer, requesting a court order barring the state from acting. Noted "right-to-die" attorney, author and activist George Felos argued during a court hearing later Wednesday that DCF had "no more power than ... a person walking down the street," to place Terri in protective custody.

"Any action would be a violation of Mrs. Schiavo's constitutional right to refuse medical treatment. It would be a violation of her civil rights. It would be an assault, a battery, a trespass on her," Felos argued, following his assessment with a threat aimed at DCF officials, "and, should that occur and should that be attempted, we will hold those to the fullest extent of the law."

But Florida statute 415.1051 seems to contradict Felos' claim.

The statute states, "If it appears that the vulnerable adult ... is likely to incur a risk of death or serious physical injury if such person is not immediately removed from the premises, then the representative of the department shall transport or arrange for the transportation of the vulnerable adult to an appropriate medical or protective services facility in order to provide emergency protective services."

Jennifer Lima-Smith, an attorney for the DCF, reminded Greer that the agency does not need his permission in advance to act.

"The law allows the department to exercise both emergency protective services - intervention and emergency removal -- either one or both," Lima-Smith told Greer.

The statute also appears to specifically exempt DCF from an otherwise enforceable mandate to seek Michael Schiavo's permission to remove Terri.

"If the vulnerable adult's caregiver or guardian is present, the protective investigator must seek the caregiver's or guardian's consent ... before the vulnerable adult may be removed from the premises," the law states, "unless the protective investigator suspects that the vulnerable adult's caregiver or guardian has caused the abuse, neglect, or exploitation."

The only authorization or requirement for the involvement of the courts in an emergency intervention or removal comes after DCF has taken its action. "The department shall, within 24 hours after providing or arranging for emergency removal of the vulnerable adult, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays, petition the court for an order authorizing emergency protective services."

Nonetheless, Greer rebuked the agency, ordering it not to attempt to enforce the state law.

"Since it appears imminent that the department is likely to do something in contravention of that rule of law, this court is going to grant the oral motion," Greer said. "DCF is hereby restrained from taking possession of Theresa Marie Schiavo or removing her from Hospice Woodside, administer (sic) nutrition or hydration artificially or otherwise interfere (sic) with this court's final judgment."

That final portion of Greer's oral order seems to contradict yet another portion of the statute, entitled "Emergency medical treatment."

"If, upon admission to a medical facility, it is the opinion of the medical staff that immediate medical treatment is necessary to prevent serious physical injury or death, and that such treatment does not violate a known health care advance directive prepared by the vulnerable adult," the statute states, "the medical facility may proceed with treatment to the vulnerable adult."

Terri Schiavo has no such advance directive.

At approximately 11:00 p.m. EST, attorneys for Terri Schiavo's parents filed a 40-plus page request for an emergency injunction with the U.S. Supreme Court. The pleading asks the justices to order Terri's feeding and hydration tube reinserted while the lower federal courts conduct a completely new trial of the facts in the case. That review was mandated by special legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush earlier in the week.

Copyright: CNSNews.com


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Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said the new information "raises serious concerns and warrants immediate action. "Terri is now going on her sixth day without food or water," Gov. Bush told reporters Wednesday afternoon. "It is imperative that she be stabilized so that the adult...
Thursday, 24 March 2005 12:00 AM
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