(CNSNews.com) - Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has instructed his legal staff to try to find a way to save the life of Terri Schindler Schiavo, a disabled 39-year-old woman whose feeding tube was removed under court order Wednesday at her husband's request.
While Bush acknowledged Wednesday that "the ultimate decision of this is in the courts," he told Terri's parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, that he is still looking for a way to help Terri.
"We are going to seek whatever legal alternatives are available and seek the best minds to find another avenue to submit to the courts to see if there can be a change in this ruling," Bush said after a private meeting with the Schindlers.
"I am not a doctor, and I am not a lawyer," Bush added. "But I know that if a person can be able to sustain life without life support, that should be tried."
Robert Schindler said he and his family have "not given up hope.
"We have spoken to the governor, and he hasn't given up hope either," Mr. Schindler said after meeting with Bush. "We all felt a lot better when we left the interview with him. I have confidence something will happen. We still have time."
"I have to believe that someone, somewhere will stop this judicial homicide," said Suzanne Carr, Terri's sister.
As CNSNews.com reported Monday, Florida law authorizes the state Department of Children and Family Services' Adult Protective Service Unit to perform an "emergency protective services intervention" if the state has "reasonable cause to believe that a vulnerable adult is suffering from abuse or neglect that presents a risk of death or serious physical injury to the vulnerable adult and that the vulnerable adult lacks the capacity to consent to emergency protective services."
Title III, Chapter 415, Section 105 (2) of the Florida Code also gives authorities emergency powers to forcibly enter a private premise and to remove a "vulnerable adult," who cannot give consent for treatment or ask for help, to a location where he or she can receive that care if an investigator "has reason to believe that the situation presents a risk of death or serious physical injury."
Although no provision in the statute authorizes the courts to override the law, Bush's office has been operating under the belief that the court's order to remove the feeding tube supercedes the state's legislated power to protect disabled adults from neglect.
Hospice workers, medical staff could face criminal charges for neglect
The Florida Criminal Code also declares "neglect of an elderly person or disabled adult" to be a felony punishable by both fine and imprisonment. The statute defines "neglect" as:
"A caregiver's failure or omission to provide an elderly person or disabled adult with the care, supervision and services necessary to maintain the elderly person's or disabled adult's physical and mental health, including, but not limited to, food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, supervision, medicine and medical services that a prudent person would consider essential for the well-being of the elderly person or disabled adult."
Patricia Anderson, attorney for the Schindler family, told Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor Wednesday night that she cannot predict whether anyone will be held accountable for Terri's expected death.
"Whether, under these circumstances, any grand jury would indict someone or a state attorney, a prosecutor, would file a direct information is probably a political question," Anderson said. "I know that there are many, many people who are terribly upset by this outcome.
"Florida," Anderson added, "is not some backwater hellhole."
George Felos, one of the attorneys representing Terri's husband Michael Schiavo, told the St. Petersburg Times that Gov. Bush has no right to try to influence the courts.
"I think it is very unfortunate that the governor persists in trying to exert political influence on the judicial system," Felos said.
Felos believes there is "no legal means" for Bush to intervene in the case, but he told the Times: "No one takes the governor lightly."
Dehydration expected to end Terri's life in less than a week
At 2 p.m. EDT Thursday, Terri had been without nutrition or hydration for 24 hours. Although medical protocols call for caregivers to moisten the lips and mouth of the dying patient and to give medication to alleviate the pain, it is unknown whether or not those steps are being taken to comfort Terri. Schiavo has barred the release of any information about any treatment his wife might or might not receive.
Doctors predict that, depending on how much fluid was in her system when the feeding tube was removed, Terri will die of dehydration within a week. While it is possible that she could live up to 15 days or longer, eventually dying of starvation, medical experts believe that without hydration, she will not live long enough to starve to death.
Doctors have also reached no consensus on the amount of pain felt by patients who are allowed to die under such circumstances or whether medications given to alleviate pain work under extraordinary conditions.
See Earlier Story:
Family Prays as Woman's Feeding Tube Is Removed (Oct. 15, 2003)
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