Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - The parents of a disabled Florida woman, joyful upon learning that their daughter's life had been spared Tuesday by an act of the Florida legislature and Gov. Jeb Bush, have since been barred from seeing her or learning anything about her condition by the woman's husband, Michael Schiavo.
Terri Schindler Schiavo was transported to Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater, Fla., Wednesday from the hospice where her husband had taken her to end her life. The move came as the result of an executive order Gov. Bush issued almost immediately after the Florida House and Senate gave him the power to intervene in Michael Schiavo's court-sanctioned starvation and dehydration of his wife.
As CNSNews.com previously reported, while Terri's family celebrated the victory, Michael Schiavo's attorney was filing court papers to block implementation of Bush's order. The court rejected the filing on technical grounds but allowed five days for the petition to be amended. Schiavo attorney George Felos is expected to re-file the motion, attacking the new Florida law as an unconstitutional invasion of privacy, as early as Wednesday.
Legal blockades, however, were not the only ones Schiavo had planned in response to the various legal and political maneuvers to protect his wife.
"Michael Schiavo has ordered that the hospital may not permit any visitors for Terri, including her parents and siblings," Schindler family spokeswoman Pamela Hennessy said in a statement issued Wednesday morning. "Terri's immediate family is not allowed to visit her and is not permitted to have any information regarding her physical condition."
Hennessy later told CNSNews.com that Schiavo ordered the hospital not to allow anyone other than himself to visit Terri, including her family, priest and all of the individuals listed on a court-approved list of visitors.
"There is a court order in place stating who is and who is not permitted to see Terri," Hennessy explained. "Without a court action to retract that or to override that, I would have to say that is indeed a violation of a court order."
Catholics nationwide also reacted harshly earlier in the week when Terri's priest was forbidden to give her communion as part of last rites, when she was expected to die after having her feeding tube removed. While Schiavo's attorney claimed doctors were afraid the wafer used in the rite might choke Terri, the family believes Schiavo did not want to risk public confirmation that Terri is capable of swallowing soft food on her own.
Hennessy said the visitation order is not the only one Terri's family believes Schiavo is violating.
"There is also a court order in place since 1996 that Michael must disclose medical information or changes in Terri's medical condition to her family," Hennessy explained. "Yet, he has now instructed Morton Plant [Hospital] not to share any information with Terri's family."
Terri's brother, Robert "Bobby" Schindler, Jr., attempted to visit her at the hospital Tuesday night but was refused access and "was told that they could not share any information with him," Hennessy said.
While Terri's life is not in as much danger as it was while her feeding tube was removed, Hennessy explained that her family still has to act because her husband still wants her dead.
"The family's attorneys are going to petition the courts to remove Michael as guardian," Hennessy said. "They're going to pursue that rather aggressively now on the grounds of abuse, neglect and exploitation."
The Florida Criminal Code, Title 46, Chapter 825 Section 102, 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." (Emphasis added.)
The violation is a felony punishable by both fine and imprisonment. There is no exception in the statute for denial of food or nutrition under a court order, and the Schindler family believes Schiavo's actions have given them new and better grounds to have him removed for the alleged criminal act.
An Oct. 2002 petition to remove Schiavo as his wife's guardian is also still pending. Hennessy said the Schindlers will pursue that avenue as well. Guardians may be removed for a number of factors, including conflicts of interest or committing crimes related to their ward.
"[Schiavo] is living in open adultery; it is a crime, and that should disqualify him as [Terri's] guardian," Hennessy said.
The already tense situation between Schiavo and Terri's parents deteriorated on Tuesday, when the Schindler family issued a response to a press statement distributed by Schiavo's lawyers.
Schiavo claimed: "I understand what the Schindlers are going through at this time. I feel the same loss."
The Schindlers' response called Schiavo's claim "an exercise in self-justification that completely rewrites the true history of his efforts to have our Terri put to death by starvation and dehydration.
"We cannot allow Mr. Schiavo's lies to go unanswered," the Schindlers concluded. "We pray that God will see to it that justice is done and that our Terri's life is delivered from the clutches of this ruthless man, who dares to pretend that he is grieving with us over what he has done to Terri."
Reports circulating on Internet web logs that Michael Schiavo is employed by the Morton Plant Hospital, where Terri is being treated, are incorrect. He works at another location for the holding company that owns the hospital.
As of 4 p.m. (EDT) Wednesday, the Schindler family was still being denied access to Terri and had received no information about her condition.
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