DCF's Schiavo Petition Unsealed

DCF's Schiavo Petition Unsealed
Fri Mar 4, 2005 03:45

DCF's Schiavo Petition Unsealed
By DAVID SOMMER dsommer@tampatrib.com
Published: Mar 4, 2005

CLEARWATER - Credible new reports alleging abuse against Terri Schiavo make it imperative that she not be removed from life support until an investigation is completed, the state agency charged with protecting disabled adults said in court records unsealed Thursday.

Also Thursday, U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Melbourne, announced his intention to file the Incapacitated Persons Legal Protection Act, which would afford federal appeal rights to disabled persons facing removal from life support similar to the rights afforded death row inmates.

Weldon said he would file the bill Tuesday, 10 days before Terri Schiavo's feeding tube is scheduled to be removed at the request of her husband and against the wishes of her parents.

The brain-damaged woman's husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo, should not be allowed to remove her feeding tube March 18, Department of Children & Families official Michael Will said in a petition filed last week and unsealed Thursday at the request of The Tampa Tribune and News Channel 8.

``The allegations in the abuse reports go to the heart of whether abuse, neglect and/or exploitation has been perpetrated by the guardian such that any relief afforded by this court to this guardian prior to the conclusion of such investigation would be tragically misplaced,'' wrote Will, DCF's Adult Protective Investigations supervisor.

The DCF petition seeks a stay of Circuit Judge George Greer's order allowing Michael Schiavo to remove his wife's feeding tube for up to 60 days while the allegations are investigated. It also seeks an injunction preventing Schiavo from removing the feeding tube, and the appointment of a lawyer to represent Terri Schiavo.

Filed with Greer on Feb. 23, the DCF petition states the agency received ``30 detailed allegations of abuse, neglect or exploitation in a 34 page document received by the DCF hotline'' Feb. 18 and Feb. 21, ``whereupon an investigation has been commenced.''

Greer kept the petition out of the public record at the DCF's request until Thursday, when he granted The Tampa Tribune's and News Channel 8's motion for access based on a finding that any privacy concerns have ``long since been lost'' because of the extensive publicity afforded the case.

Also, the petition neither names individuals involved in making the abuse report nor lists specific allegations, the judge said in his written ruling.

The petition does state the allegations include failure to file proper guardian plans and reports, ``confinement issues at the ward's residence,'' failure to provide therapies, ``experimental procedures performed without proper medical and legal procedures observed,'' and a lack of manipulation of Terri Schiavo's arms ``causing severe contractures.''

Some of the allegations previously have been investigated by the DCF, while others are new, the document states.

The document also references a prior attempt to remove Terri Schiavo's feeding tube in 2003.

``Allegations which predate the order of removal of nutrition and hydration of Sept. 17, 2003 ... are particularly supportive of a grant for intervention'' by the DCF, it states.

In October 2003, the feeding tube was reinserted on order of Gov. Jeb Bush, who relied on a hastily crafted law that since has been struck down as unconstitutional.

Last week, Bush said he would seek any legal avenue to keep Terri Schiavo alive, prompting Schiavo attorney George Felos to allege the governor is behind the DCF's request to intervene in the case.

DCF Secretary Lucy Hadi has denied that accusation.

``The [abuse] allegation was screened and is from a substantive, credible source with firsthand knowledge of possible abuse,'' she told the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club on Wednesday.

Felos said Thursday that the decision of a Florida congressman to get involved underscores the politicized nature of the case.

``We had a [Roman Catholic] cardinal make a statement the other day, so certainly it's not surprising a congressman wants to get into the act,'' Felos said. ``It's just amazing how the politicians blow with the wind here.''

Last week, Cardinal Renato Martino, the Vatican's former ambassador to the United Nations, said the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube ``would be a grave step toward the legal approval of euthanasia in the United States.''

Attorney David Gibbs, who represents Bob and Mary Schindler in their quest to keep their daughter alive, said Weldon's proposed legislation would remove a hurdle in seeking federal court review of a state court decision to end a life.

Reporter Keith Epstein contributed to this report.
The Saga of terri Schiavo

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