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Professor Appointed to Probe Schiavo Case
Guardian Unlimited ^ | Nov 1, 2003 | Vickie Chachere

Posted on 10/31/2003 8:16:51 PM PST by Future Useless Eater

Professor Appointed to Probe Schiavo Case

Saturday November 1, 2003 1:01 AM

Associated Press Writer

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - A judge appointed a University of South Florida professor on Friday to independently investigate the case of a severely brain-damaged woman at the center of a right-to-die battle.

Jay Wolfson, an expert on health care financing, will report to Gov. Jeb Bush and recommend whether the stay the governor enacted to keep Terri Schiavo alive should be allowed to remain.

Schiavo suffered severe brain damage when her heart stopped due to a chemical imbalance and has been in a persistent vegetative state for more than a decade. Doctors have said there is no hope for her recovery.

Her husband, Michael Schiavo, has fought to have her feeding tube removed, saying his wife did not want to be kept alive artificially.

Terri Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, dispute that claim and have fought to keep their daughter alive, saying they believe she could be rehabilitated.

Terri Schiavo's feeding tube was removed for six days in October before the Florida Legislature and Gov. Jeb Bush enacted a special law to have it reinserted. The law also required a guardian to be appointed.

George Felos, the attorney for Michael Schiavo, and the American Civil Liberties Union filed briefs this week challenging the constitutionality of the governor's action. The state is expected to respond on Monday.

The judge said that if the law is found to be unconstitutional, Wolfson is to cease his work.

The Schindlers had objected to Wolfson's appointment, claiming comments he made to a television station indicated he was biased against the newly enacted law. The judge said he found no evidence of bias.

Wolfson did not return calls seeking comment.

The judge ordered Wolfson to report to the governor in 30 days, but said the deadline could be extended if needed.

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; US: Florida
KEYWORDS: euthanasia; felos; greer; pearse; schiavo; schindler; strangulation; terri; terrischiavo; wolfson
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To: FL_engineer
Before anyone flames me, I have already concluded that the husband is the villain here, with the complicity of the courts. But who called the paramedics onto the scene in the first place? Did Michael mistakenly presume his wife was too far gone to survive, and attempt to cover his tracks by portraying the "concerned husband" and call the paramedics himself?
241 posted on 11/02/2003 10:06:44 PM PST by bjcintennessee (Don't Sweat the Small Stuff)
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To: No More Gore Anymore
Hey, so what's the latest word around here? ;-)
242 posted on 11/02/2003 10:09:09 PM PST by sfRummygirl (SAVE TERRI SHINDLER
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To: No More Gore Anymore
I am very laid back and easy going until something arouses my passions, then I am hard-headed and tenacious. I am also open-minded about most things until I learn enough to take a stand, but once I take one, it is a complete waste of time to try and persuade me to change it. I am Dutch/Cherokee, by the way, and a redhead.
243 posted on 11/02/2003 10:12:44 PM PST by sweetliberty ("Having the right to do a thing is not at all the same thing as being right in doing it.")
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To: sfRummygirl
Oh just a bit of troll patrol, you will love the latest here.
244 posted on 11/02/2003 10:14:20 PM PST by Diva Betsy Ross ((were it not for the brave, there would be no land of the free -))
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To: No More Gore Anymore
Ping me an example....I'm ADD all over the place!!
245 posted on 11/02/2003 10:21:49 PM PST by sfRummygirl (SAVE TERRI SHINDLER
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To: No More Gore Anymore
Did "Harv" reveal something about himself?
246 posted on 11/02/2003 10:25:02 PM PST by sfRummygirl (SAVE TERRI SHINDLER
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To: sfRummygirl
I think last count "harv" was gone and we gained a LisaRn, who has posted here on this thread . But it is the same ole same old with this crew. Same message. We must stop now , because we are really doing nothing to help the Bulemic Terri. These new posters are very concerned about her and want us to stop trying to save her because we are misguided about the brittle bone disorder caused by her severe eating disorder.

That is about it.....oh yeah according to these newbies the Schinlders are really dumb and have chosen a wack job docter and that is why the courts will not work withthem. I think one of them mentioned taht Felos is a genius.... So I have tried to bottom line if for you.....What do you think, should we throw in the towel?

247 posted on 11/02/2003 10:30:33 PM PST by Diva Betsy Ross ((were it not for the brave, there would be no land of the free -))
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To: No More Gore Anymore
heh-heh-heh....oh, sure! We might as well give up. Right! Everyone go home! That's it! ;-)
Thank you for the troll update.
248 posted on 11/02/2003 10:35:36 PM PST by sfRummygirl (SAVE TERRI SHINDLER
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To: NautiNurse
Terri's PE 6/90 is at post 237 -- had you seen that yet?
249 posted on 11/02/2003 10:59:35 PM PST by cyn (
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To: bjcintennessee
But who called the paramedics onto the scene in the first place? Did Michael mistakenly presume his wife was too far gone to survive, and attempt to cover his tracks by portraying the "concerned husband" and call the paramedics himself?

I don't have perfect info here, but Michael's story about the 'accident' changes significantly over time. He supposedly called others first, not 911. They talked him into calling 911.

As for pretending to be 'concerned hubby' - absolutely. What would any sleaze monster with a controlling compusive personality, and explosive temper do after nearly killing his wife and not wanting to go to jail?

250 posted on 11/03/2003 12:50:12 AM PST by Future Useless Eater (Freedom_Loving_Engineer)
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To: FL_engineer
I meant 'compulsive' (Newsweek says he persued her INCESSANTLY in college)
251 posted on 11/03/2003 12:51:34 AM PST by Future Useless Eater (Freedom_Loving_Engineer)
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To: sweetliberty
Chris Matthew's Hardball debate: Wednesday, 29 Oct 2003

Matthews: We'll be right back to talk about the toughest case in the country right now... Mary Schiavo. Whether she should live or die. break was inserted

Matthews: The hardball debate tonight... Does Michael Schiavo have the right to remove a feeding tube, keeping his severly brain damaged wife alive? or should Governor Jeb Bush's order to KEEP her alive stand? Here's hardball coorespondent David Schuster.

[video clip of Terri sitting up and smiling, being kissed on the cheek by her mother]

Schuster: A week after Terri Schiavo's feeding tube was RE-inserted, thanks to Governor Jeb Bush and the Florida legislature sidestepping the courts...

[videoclip of smiling Gov.Bush]
[videoclip of Terri's vigil supporters cheering]

Schuster: the case has become more politically charged than ever.

[videoclip of GW]President Bush: Yes I believe my brother made the right decision...

Schuster: and among those CLOSEST to Terri Schiavo, the husband who was fighting in the courts to let her die, and the PARENTS who think her life can be restored...

[clips of Michael, clip of Schindlers and attorney]

Schuster: the charges and counter-charges have become DOWNRIGHT nasty.

(file footage of father)Bob Schindler: She had a NECK injury, and she ALSO had fractured ribs, and she had ahh, I think a broken PELVIS, So she was just, pretty well BEAT UP, according to the radiologist that read the bone scan. So... you can kind of ahh, you know, connect the dots, and draw your own conclusion...

(file footage) Michael Schiavo: He's ALWAYS wanted the money. He always wanted money out of this. He even testified in the first trial, that he was angry that he didn't get any money.

Schuster: Schiavo's father acknowledges he DID want part of the million dollar settlement, but ONLY to pay for his daughter's therapy.

(file footage)Schindler: I said to him, that you have the money now, you made the committments to our family, to Terri, AND to a jury that Terri would get therapy. And he declined. And he kept saying that, he's the husband, that he can do as he wishes...

Schuster: The husband says that therapy WAS attempted, and that Schiavo's family is USING her.

(file footage)Michael: Oh well THEY get money from the right wing ACTIVISTS... from the right wing, the.. the, the right to LIFE groups.

Schuster: Against ALL of this, are the Florida courts, who must now separate fact from fiction, and decide if the legislation passed by the state is constitutional.

The question IS, does Schiavo, as her husband maintains, have a right to privacy and death? or is the state acting in Schiavo's best interest by trying to keep her alive? I'm David Schuster, for Hardball, in Washington.

[the interview is inter-spersed throughout with family video of Terri smiling, flinching, fluttering her eyes]

Matthews: Joe Tacopina, a defense attorney and Jay Sekulow, [Chris pronounced it Suck-a-loff] the chief council for American Center for Law and Justice. Let me start with Jay right now.. This issue, what is it? Whats the issue before the public RIGHT now? Is it the spouses RIGHT to end a person's life?

Sekulow: No, its really... the legislative response to this, is, is there a compelling interest in keeping her alive WHILE these guardianship proceedings continue. So, the question really is, what is the role of the parent? is that EXCLUSIVE? in other words, does the husband have the ONLY right here? And I think the answer to that SHOULD be NO.

Sekulow: But there's legal proceedings going on here. The Cali.. the Florida Supreme Court has recognised that when you've got these questions that are in DISPUTE, you should error on the side of caution. I think caution dictates here that you error on the side of KEEPING her ALIVE, while this process goes on.

Sekulow: She is NOT comatose, she is, there is, i mean the video is self-evident of what is going on... So I think you HAVE to be cautious. I think the legislature did here, and what Governor Bush did, was exercise caution, and said we're going to... Its almost like the stay of a death penalty. WHILE there is a dispute, EVEN if the courts rule, the governor can step in. That's what happened here.

Matthews: Let me be cold hearted, talking about the law here, how its going to take effect...

Matthews: The florida legislature, is conservative, its Republican. I know the politics because we all learned it back in 2000. We ALSO learned that the Florida supreme court is EXTREMELY liberal, and FUNDAMENTALY liberal. I mean they go to FIRST principles. Like the right to vote... and have your INTENTIONS of how to vote counted, even if you can't read the ballot...

Matthews: In THIS case, I understand, as David pointed out in that piece, David Schuster, the PRINCIPLE of privacy is at stake here. Will the Supreme Court of Florida, being FUNDAMENTAL in its liberalism say privacy trumps everything else?

Tacopina: Privacy, and the right to DIE, Yes, I think they WILL Chris. I mean, This is... this is a MUCH greater issue here than the one at hand. And unfortunately, like you say, politics has bec-, entered into this arena where it DOES not belong. And when you think about how tragic it is on BOTH sides, I mean, the PARENTS obviously want to hold out whatever HOPE they have to try and keep their daughter alive.

Tacopina: However let's- th, the, the real facts are, for 13 years, she's been in a vegetative state. She's NOT getting better. The-, the, the reason they keep her alive has nothing to DO with potentially finding a TREATMENT. It has to do with resolving GUARDIANSHIP issues.

Matthews: But the PARENTS disagree with that.

Sekulow: The PARENTS disagree with that, and then there's MEDICAL testimony that disagrees with it. The ONLY thing you had to do at the trial court was what's called "clear and convincing evidence". which basically says: Well, if MOST people agree that there's..., that she's in a persistent vegetative state, THATS enough.

Matthews: Wait a minute, wait a minute, I have read that theres NO [unintelligable] case that a person's been brought back from this state. Not coma, but from this vegetative state. Once you're IN it, you don't get OUT of it.

Sekulow: IF you're IN it, this is-, and I'm not a medical expert, but reading the medical testimony, a neurologist testified, at the trial, and theres been a series of three trials here, that theres a disagreement whether she's actually in FULL PVS, and the brain scans evidently...

Matthews: English?

Sekulow: Ahh, Persistent Vegetative State. And the BRAIN scans showed that there IS brain function.

[video clip shows Terri smiling and her eyes FLUTTERING as her mom kisses her cheek]

Sekulow: But here's interesting... talking about, the right to privacy, heres also, in the VERY same case, what the Florida Supreme Court said: In cases where there is SOME doubt, we must, and this is an EXACT quote, "ASSUME that a patient would choose to defend life in exercising his or her right of privacy". There WAS NO living will here. So you substitute THAT issue, and thats a BIG issue... [others start interrupting] but theres no evidence of a living will.

Matthews: OK, Ok, Let me get, let me get to the part... It ALWAYS seems there is a back story here, theres obviously a lot of PERSONAL dislike between the husband, and the parents. They dont like each other. And NEITHER of them are very likeable people, from what I can tell, they're very difficult in making their case, at least on on the tube here...

Matthews: Ahh, they're both OVERWROUGHT, and theres SO much history of anger between these people, They're almost like, you know, they're like people who've never gotten along, like the Bickerson's almost. But the question is: Is there ANY common ground here that can be found? If you were sitting down, and both of you are attorneys, and you're saying: Why don't we give her another two months, if theres NO MORE sign of life, theres no evidence of any ahh, any recurrance of CONSCIOUSNESS, we'll stop feeding her? Is there ANY way to re- [interrupted]

Tacopina: But THAT won't satisfy them, because they've HAD, and I don't say you in particular, but for thirteen YEARS, things have NOT gotten better. Things have gotten worse. Another two months is NOT going to solve this. Chris, here's the bottom line: The, the SPOUSE... she's an ADULT, Terri's is an adult, she's 39 years old. And for 13 years, she's lived this way, or NOT lived this way. Its not as if she's a MINOR, where the parents should be making this choice. The right to emergency medical treatment for instance goe to the SPOUSE, if there IS a spouse. NOT to the PARENTS of an adult.

Sekulow: But, but questions of life or death, THATS what we're talking about here... This isn't a question of somebody needing STICHES, this is a life and death question. To say that the parents have NO INPUT, is rediculous. Its a guardianship issue Chris. Isn't it a situation where you WANT to see to develop, that, that you EXPLORE all these things... the PARENTS are willing to take guardianship AND responsibility. Here, the husband doesn't want that. Without getting into that issue, while this issue is pending, DONT break the stay.

Matthews: Prediction... prediction on the constitutionality ... Will this be ruled unconstitutional under Florida law, and the right to privacy?

Tacopina: Yes. I believe it will. I believe SHE will be ABLE to Chris, ahh, ahh die.

Sekulow: I think the courts are going to weigh this CAREFULLY. You're right Chris, the Florida Supreme Court is VERY liberal. But there is ALSO a FUNDAMENTAL issue of choice here, and I think the choice HAS to go to protecting her life. You've got to error on the side of caution. I think they're going to be up to-

Matthews: How long? How long do you error?

Sekulow: Ahh, it could be... this could be a case thats over with actually fairly quickly... It could go on for a couple months, I think, you're on a TRO status here... Its going to go quick Chris.

Tacopina: A matter of a couple months Chris

Matthews: TRO? English again?

Both lawyers in harmony: Temporary Restraining Order (everyone laughs, and jokes about lawyer-speak)

Sekulow: But, you know, the fact of the matter is this case is coming up QUICKLY through the Florida Supreme Court. I would expect in months, thats why-

Matthews: You know what I think is the human issue here? Watching it? Her eyes flickering... You can say ALL you want about brain damage, She SEEMS like she is alive.

Tacopina: Yea, yea, but that was two years ago Chris.

Sekulow: But there's been no change in her medical condition since then. Thanks.

Matthews: Jay Sekulow, Joe Tacopina, thank you guys.

[Transcripted for education and discussion purposes only, not guaranteed to be 100% accurate. This debate was in person with no satellite delays. Debaters interrupted or talked over each other only a little.]
= = = = = = = = = == = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Recent interviews/excerpts:
= = = = = = = = = == = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
"Hannity and Colmes" - Tuesday 10-14-03 --> (Terri's father) Bob Schindler: "MONEY and FOUL PLAY"

"On the Record with Greta" - Friday 10-24-03 --> Forensic Pathologist, Dr. Michael Baden: "Potassium imbalance UNLIKELY - HEALTHY heart - NECK TRAUMA"

"At Large with Geraldo Rivera" Sunday 10-26-03 --> Florida AG Christopher Darden and Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz: "You have eternity to be dead; You only have a limited amount of time to live"

"Hannity and Colmes" - Monday 10-27-03 --> (father) Bob Schindler and (neurologist) Dr. William Hammesfahr: "She absolutely CAN be rehabilitated -clearly NEVER had heart attack -Emergency room: damaged neck"

"On the Record with Greta" - Monday 10-27-03 --> (attorney) Pat Anderson: "BIG FIGHT -attempted STRANGULATION"

"On the Record with Greta" - Tuesday 10-28-03 --> (attorney) Pat Anderson and (brother) Bobby Schindler: "failing marriage -DIVORCE imminent -Potassium explained":

"Hardball with with Chris Matthews" - Wednesday 10-29-03 --> (attorney for ACLJ) Jay Sekulow and (attorney FOR death) Joe Tacopina: "Matthews: I think the human issue here is... her eyes flickering... I think she's ALIVE":

252 posted on 11/03/2003 3:19:44 AM PST by Future Useless Eater (Freedom_Loving_Engineer)
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To: sweetliberty; EternalVigilance; floriduh voter; tutstar; Canticle_of_Deborah; JulieRNR21; ...
...just added transcript of Matthews Hardball interview here "Matthews: I think the human issue here is... her eyes flickering... I think she's ALIVE"
post #252, with Jay Sekulow (Chris pronounced it suck-a-loff) of the ACLJ (American Center for Law and Justice)
253 posted on 11/03/2003 3:24:10 AM PST by Future Useless Eater (Freedom_Loving_Engineer)
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To: FL_engineer; sweetliberty; EternalVigilance; floriduh voter; tutstar; Canticle_of_Deborah; ...
Eyes on Judge W. Douglas Baird in Schiavo petition

Observers say Judge W. Douglas Baird's unflinching nature will serve him well in the emotional case.

By JENNIFER FARRELL, Times Staff Writer
Published November 3, 2003

CLEARWATER - In a case dominated by strong personalities, everyone has an opinion on what's best for Terri Schiavo.

The parents.

The husband.

The governor.

The Legislature.

But at the center of the latest controversy, one man is left to decide.

Those who know Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge W. Douglas Baird say he will set aside political rhetoric and gut-wrenching emotion.

Instead, he will focus on the law.

At issue is whether the Legislature violated the Florida Constitution by passing a new law that allowed Gov. Jeb Bush to force doctors to reinsert Schiavo's feeding tube Oct. 21.

On Wednesday, attorneys for Schiavo's husband filed a 44-page legal brief challenging "Terri's Law" and asking Baird to overturn it as unconstitutional.

Now, the eyes of the nation turn to Baird.

Known for his bookish intelligence and scholarly approach, he is an unwilling subject of the limelight.

"I think this entire matter has already become more than it should about personalities and less about the law," said Baird, 60, who declined to be interviewed. "I don't think I need to contribute to that."

Friends, family and colleagues say that is typical of his low-key demeanor and academic, contemplative bent. They are qualities that friends say will serve Baird well in the Schiavo case.

"He's a good man to make that decision," said fellow Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge John Lenderman. "And God bless him. He's going to have his hands full."

* * *

Born in Knoxville, Tenn., Baird has lived in Pinellas County since 1947. He went to Gulfport Elementary School and graduated from Boca Ciega High. As a child, he went to Sunday school at the Methodist Pasadena Community Church and played catcher on a Little League team sponsored by Dwight Mowers.

In high school, Baird played linebacker on the varsity football team until a knee injury sidelined him in his senior year. Devastated, he switched gears and sang baritone with a school choral group called the Baker's Dozen.

Baird's parents, who live in St. Petersburg, said their son devoured all sorts of books as a kid. At times, his mother, Martha, had to shove him outdoors.

"I thought he was reading when he should have been playing," she said. "He would have been perfectly happy, I think, just to read."

On a cross-country road trip after his junior year, Baird fell in love with Boulder, Colo., and he went back after graduation to study at the University of Colorado. He remains an avid "Buffs" fan.

Married to Marilyn Brown, a reporter for the Tampa Tribune, Baird has two grown children from a previous marriage and a daughter with Brown who attends the University of Florida.

He has two sisters, one older, one younger, and a younger brother, Ed, a world-renowned America's Cup sailor.

Judge Baird is a registered Republican, known for his easy laugh and dry sense of humor. He loves the Devil Rays and music, with eclectic tastes that run the gamut from jazz to Van Morrison.

In the waiting area outside his chambers, he used to keep back issues of Rolling Stone magazine.

* * *

The Schiavo case is not Baird's first brush with the controversial. In 15 years on the circuit court bench, Baird has presided over a number of sensational criminal and civil court battles.

In 1994, he sentenced Lorenzo Jenkins to die in the electric chair for killing Belleair police Officer Jeffery Tackett. His decision, which overrode a jury's recommendation to send the Clearwater man to prison for life without parole, was overturned on appeal.

In 1996, Baird upheld the conviction of Michael Diana, the first cartoonist in United States history to be jailed for obscenity. In another case debated hotly in local circles, Baird cleared the way for "Eight is Enough," the initiative on term limits for county politicians, to be placed on the ballot.

To colleagues on the bench, the case that epitomizes Baird's judicial personality is a complex and seemingly dry class-action lawsuit filed in 1999 against Florida Progress by its stockholders.

In the suit, shareholders claimed the company's directors failed to get the best price in a deal to sell the power company to Carolina Power & Light, now called Progress Energy. Quietly, the two sides agreed to settle and brought their agreement to Baird for approval. Under the deal, the law firm representing shareholders was to receive $375,000 in fees while Florida Progress won sweeping release from future liability.

The shareholders would get nothing.

Comparing the deal to a form of extortion common on big city streets, Baird rejected the settlement. In a 16-page ruling that colleagues say was faxed all over the country as much for its wit as its legal analysis, Baird wrote:

"This action appears to be the class litigation equivalent of the "Squeegee boys' who used to frequent major urban intersections and who would run up to a stopped car, splash soapy water on its perfectly clean windshield and expect payment for the uninvited service of wiping it off."

A less conscientious judge, Baird's colleagues agree, might have signed off on the deal.

"He's very good at getting down to the nitty gritty and figuring out what needs to be looked at carefully," said Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Jim Case.

* * *

Baird, of course, won't have the last word on the Schiavo case. No matter what he decides, the ruling almost certainly will be appealed. There is virtually no chance Schiavo's feeding tube will be removed or left in based on Baird's ruling alone, experts say.

But even though his opinion won't be binding, it still could be persuasive, said Michael Allen, a constitutional law and civil procedure professor at Baird's alma mater, Stetson University. "It depends upon how much effort Judge Baird puts into this," Allen said. "The pressure to make a decision is great. The eyes of the nation are on this."

Already, friends are peppering Baird's father about which direction his son is leaning.

"People ask me, "Well? What's he going to do?' " said Phil Baird, 84.

The Bairds said this week they haven't talked to their son about the case. His ruling will speak for itself.

"We just hope that the way he interprets, it is right," said Phil Baird. "And he does, too."

- Times staff writer Craig Pittman and researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

254 posted on 11/03/2003 3:45:15 AM PST by msmagoo
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To: FL_engineer
Thank you for your ping to call my attention to the most recent article you posted here. I appreciate the opportunity to continue to acquire knowledge of the facts in this matter, but as I've stated elsewhere here, I am no longer participating in open discussions of this topic at this site.

If you are interested, I'm open to a private discussion however - see link

255 posted on 11/03/2003 4:56:43 AM PST by Normally a Lurker
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To: FL_engineer
Thanks very much for posting the transcript, FL_engineer.

I'd like to ask (the very loud and obnoxious) Matthews why he found it necessary to make a comment on the emotional expressions of the parties involve...(" and theres SO much history of anger between these people, ").

Schiavo wants to get Terri's death done and over with...
The Schindlers are fighting to keep her alive...
so, of course, there are emotions involved.

Matthews could just as well have told the soldiers landing at Salerno in WWII to smile (kind of "friendly-like") as they got mowed down by the Germans.

256 posted on 11/03/2003 5:00:18 AM PST by syriacus (Casual comments about tubes, made after watching a 3 handkerchief movie, do not justify euthanasia.)
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To: FL_engineer
Chris Matthews always surprises me. That is one guy I never can predict.
257 posted on 11/03/2003 5:27:53 AM PST by Diva Betsy Ross ((were it not for the brave, there would be no land of the free -))
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To: FL_engineer; NYer; sweetliberty; EternalVigilance; floriduh voter; tutstar; Canticle_of_Deborah; ...
This is a story from my area about a beautiful teenaged girl, Maria Tetto, who suffered brain injuries in an accident a few years ago.

Like Terri Schiavo, Maria is still fed with a gastric tube.

Unlike Terri, Maria has been allowed to receive rehabilitation therapy, and today she talks, laughs, keeps a journal and goes to school:

11/03/03 - Posted 12:21:28 AM from the Daily Record newsroom
Maria Tetto who emerged from a coma after an accident six years ago, shares a laugh with her father, Frank. Tyson Trish / Daily Record

Decisions of a lifetime

By Abbott Koloff, Daily Record

They talked to their daughter constantly, promising that if she came out of a coma they would allow her to get her ears pierced. They had argued about that before the accident. Now, they just wanted to make their daughter laugh.

Then, one day, three months after the accident, Frank Tetto playfully hit his wife, Alycea, over the head with a pillow.

Their daughter Maria, now 18, smiled.

Frank Tetto said doctors didn't believe at first that his daughter really smiled. The Tettos held their daughter's hand and she squeezed back. Doctors said that was a reflex rather than a sign of conscious behavior, said the Tettos, who live in Mount Olive.

"It wasn't just a personal goal to get her to smile," Frank Tetto said this past week. "It was to get her to smile and to have people witness it."

Eventually, Tetto said, they did, and doctors acknowledged their daughter had made some progress. Then hospital officials said that progress wasn't enough to keep her in the hospital, according to Tetto, and there was not much more they could do. He said an insurance company refused to pay for rehabilitative therapy, saying his daughter needed custodial care instead.

In one way, the Tettos' case is similar to one now going on in Florida, where a family has been divided over what to do about a woman, Terri Schiavo, who has been in a coma for 13 years. The Tettos said they had to convince doctors and insurance companies that their daughter would benefit from various kinds of therapy and come all the way out of a coma, and one day talk to them.

In Florida, a husband fought to have his wife's feeding tube removed against her parents' wishes. The courts ruled in his favor because the woman once said she'd rather die than be kept alive this way.

The Florida Legislature passed a law that allowed Gov. Jeb Bush to sign an executive order putting back the feeding tube. The parents have been saying that their daughter responds to them. Doctors appointed by the court say the woman is making reflexive responses.

The Tettos did not have to make a life or death decision about their daughter, who had run into a truck while in-line skating across Route 46 in 1998. Soon afterward, doctors performed a test to determine whether Maria Tetto was brain dead, and her father thought about what he would do if they came back with bad news.

"I would have wanted to give it six more months, at least," Frank Tetto said.

"I just would have needed the time. I would have thought that removing her respirator at that point was premature."

But doctors found brain activity, so the Tettos said there was no decision to make.

Maria Tetto now gets around in a motorized wheelchair. She speaks well enough to be understood. She tells jokes and laughs. She attends special-education classes at Mount Olive Middle School. She writes a daily journal in a computer so she will remember what happened to her the day before. She doesn't remember the accident, but she does know that it happened on March 2, 1998. She also knows she was in a coma.

"I was absent," she said.

[snip} Making a choice

Frank Tetto says he understands why Schiavo's parents have fought to keep her alive. He says he knows what it's like to hope for miracles. He describes a constant battle with Prudential, an insurance company since bought out by Aetna, to provide treatment for his daughter. Prudential, he said, responded that his daughter was beyond rehabilitation.

"Their argument was that her care was custodial," Frank Tetto said.

Prudential, in a 1999 statement issued to the media, said it paid all claims covered by the Tettos' policy. But in 1998, the debate was not about what was covered. It was about what kind of treatment Maria Tetto should receive.

The insurance company told the Tettos in an April 1998 letter, five weeks after the accident, that their daughter did not need rehabilitative therapy. It said her treatment would be custodial, and that wasn't covered. Doctors at Specialized Children's Hospital in Mountainside, where Maria Tetto was taken after a month at Morristown Memorial, responded in a June 24 letter to Prudential that she should get therapy.

"To determine after five weeks that a child's needs are custodial contraindicates all research and experience," K. Yalamanchi, the attending physician, said in the letter.

The doctor went on to say that patients with similar injuries continue to improve for a year.

Appeal after appeal

Maria Tetto was described in medical records as being in a coma in April 1998, when she made only nonspecific responses to various kinds of stimulation. Two months later, the Tettos say she smiled for the first time. Doctors eventually agreed that Maria Tetto had made some progress, Frank Tetto said, but at some point hospital officials told him that she was not going to get much more benefit from therapy. They told the Tettos, in a letter, that their daughter was going to be discharged Aug. 21, 1998.

"I went ballistic," Tetto said.

He filed one appeal, and then another, delaying the discharge for months. He said some doctors and nurses at the hospital encouraged him to keep fighting.

Meanwhile, according to letters from the insurance company, Prudential agreed to pay for a portion of Maria Tetto's hospital stay, which it previously said would not be covered. A spokeswoman for Children's Specialized Hospital said last week that the case records were not available, and officials could not comment on it.

When Maria Tetto was released in December 1998, she still could not talk, according to her father, but she was able to follow directions. She could turn her head when asked. She was sent to a residential school and hospital, coming home on weekends. She gradually became more responsive and now lives at home. She says that her first words were similar to what she might have said as a baby: "Mama and papa."

The Tettos say they have no more problems with insurance. They say perhaps it's because they spent so much time fighting, threatening to go to the media, filing appeal after appeal, until they eventually were given much of what they say they needed.

"I think they red-flagged our file," Alycea Tetto said.

Therapy and drugs

So the Tettos say they have been able to try various types of therapy. They have been able to try drugs that they say have helped unclench their daughter's right hand, so that she can use it for writing. They have tried a special mechanism that blows air into their daughter's mouth that they say helps her to speak more clearly.

They said insurance paid for Maria Tetto's $25,000 motorized wheelchair, which can extend to put her in a standing position. Her leg muscles are fine, her parents said, and she has feeling in her legs, but is unable to stay balanced. She has trouble swallowing fluids, so she still has a feeding tube attached to her stomach. She has no short-term memory.

"She will forget you were here by tomorrow," Frank Tetto said to a visitor.

That's why Maria Tetto writes in her journal. She said that she wants to remember little things that happen to her during the day. She writes about things any teenager might be concerned about -- how people loved her new hairstyle, an orthodontist's appointment, hitting a gym teacher accidentally with a basketball. She had been in the school choir before the accident and still loves to sing. One day, not long ago, she said she sang "Silent Night" in front of her classmates.

"Want to hear?" she asked.

She sang it without missing a word. Then she turned her head to show off her earrings.

Abbott Koloff can be reached at or (973) 989-0652.

published in The Daily Record (Parsippany, NJ)

258 posted on 11/03/2003 6:04:52 AM PST by shhrubbery!
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To: syriacus
It seems to me there is a movement about to make this an "emotional "issue so that the opposed can say those for are driven only by emotion and out of control.

First of all, when did it become an insult to frame people's response to taking the life of an innocent person as overly emotional zealotry?

Secondly, why is it a bad to thing to these people, that large groups of people get emotional enough about the laws of this country to make changes. The left ahs been doing it for decades. I never hear critism of Martin Luther King stating he got people overly emotional that his followers were zealots, or that the Revolutionaries were too emotional that they were unruly mobs of zealots.

These people who want to claim me are over reacting with emotion just do not understand that is the system of a Republic.

259 posted on 11/03/2003 6:11:24 AM PST by Diva Betsy Ross ((were it not for the brave, there would be no land of the free -))
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To: FL_engineer; sweetliberty
Thank you for posting the transcript. I had missed it. I really appreciate it. I read the whole thing. Jay Sekulow is a great guy and spokesperson. I hope he'll be on Larry King Live with the Schindler's this week.
260 posted on 11/03/2003 6:21:31 AM PST by Saundra Duffy (For victory & freedom!!!)
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