The founder of an anti-abortion group is rallying support for efforts to prevent removal of a feeding tube that would end a brain-damaged Florida woman’s life by urging public pressure on a Southern Baptist judge who has handled most of the legal matters in her case.
Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry described “several points of attack” to mobilize public opinion to keep Terri Schiavo alive, now that her parents have lost their main legal challenges to prevent her husband, Michael Schiavo, from removing the tube that has kept his wife alive artificially since 1990.
Terry said one “place where Terri’s life can be saved,” according to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, is for people to put pressure on the Judge George W. Greer of Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court.
“He’s a Southern Baptist,” Terry said. “It’s against Southern Baptist dogma to starve people.”
According to the Florida Baptist Witness, Greer is a member of Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater, Fla., a 5,000-member congregation aligned with the Southern Baptist Convention.
Greer has been criticized for allowing Michael Schiavo to remain as his wife’s guardian and for a 2000 order to remove Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube. The tube was removed briefly in 2003 but reinserted after the Florida Legislature passed a law aimed at prolonging her life.
The U.S. Supreme Court in January declined to review a Florida Supreme Court ruling striking down “Terri’s Law,” clearing the way—barring further court orders–for her husband to allow his wife to die, which he says is what she would have wanted.
Her parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, continue to appeal to both courts and the public to block the judge’s order to remove the tube, which they say would cause their 41-year-old daughter to die from starvation and dehydration.
The Schindlers disagree with Terri’s diagnosis as being in a persistent vegetative state and have put video on a Web site they claim attests that she is conscious. They say Michael Schiavo has a conflict of interest because he now lives and has two children with another woman.
Terry Schiavo in 1990 suffered severe brain damage caused by lack of oxygen after her heart stopped beating due to a rare medical condition.
Her husband was appointed her legal guardian in June 1990, without objection from her parents. They had a falling out with Michael Schiavo over Terri’s course of therapy in 1993.
In 1998 Schiavo petitioned a court to remove his wife’s feeding tube. The case went to trial early in 2000.
Judge Greer ordered removal of the tube, which doctors said would cause her death in seven to 14 days, prompting the first of a series of appeals by the Schindlers.
In an interview with the Florida Baptist Witness last August, Greer defended himself against attacks from pro-life advocates, including a critical editorial in the state Southern Baptist newspaper itself.
“My job is to follow the law: not to agree with the law, but to follow it,” Greer said. He told the paper his conscience is not bothered, even when he disagrees with the law.
“That’s how our system operates,” he said. “At my level, I just do what the law tells me to do. That’s what I’m supposed to do. That’s my oath.”
To do otherwise, Greer said, would be judicial activism and make him “one of those activist judges that the conservatives think are so bad.”
The Schiavo case prompted fierce debate between groups that oppose “euthanasia” and others who defend a “right to die.” Experts who specialize in end-of-life issues say it illustrates the importance of talking about living will and related issues before a tragedy happens.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.