Skip to comments.Professor Appointed to Probe Schiavo Case
Posted on 10/31/2003 8:16:51 PM PST by Future Useless Eater
Saturday November 1, 2003 1:01 AM
By VICKIE CHACHERE
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.
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?
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?
CLEARWATER - In a case dominated by strong personalities, everyone has an opinion on what's best for Terri Schiavo.
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.
If you are interested, I'm open to a private discussion however - see link
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.
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
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.
published in The Daily Record (Parsippany, NJ)
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.
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