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August 7, 2005

Welcome to the bizarro state

Topics: Commentary

In virtually every environment you could possibly think of, doing harm to others - especially to those who cannot fend for themselves - is typically viewed as bad behavior, bullying and distasteful. Not so in the state of Florida. In fact, here we seem to applaud people for being heartless and self-serving.

Judge George W. Greer - the probate judge who ordered that Terri Schiavo be denied enteral nourishment and even nourishment by mouth until she died - was recently recognized by and given an award from a state Bar Association for his brilliant jurisprudence in Terri's guardianship case. That particular bar association failed to recognize that Greer's order, denying Terri natural sustenance, was something he had no jurisdiction over and, indeed, was a violation of Florida's 744.3215 statutory code that defines the retained rights of those determined incapacitated. Funny that they didn't mention Greer's reversal rate of over 70% and funny that they didn't consider Greer's refusal to hear a 2002 petition, challenging the fitness of the guardian prior to ordering the death of Terri Schiavo as something of a deliberate departure from fair and unbiased ruling.

Greer has no business taking home a trophy for his delivery in the Schiavo case. Instead of adhering to Florida's well-defined and long-settled statutes that supposedly enforce the rights of vulnerable citizens, he appears to have applied his own methodology and distaste for profound disability, sticking fast to the notion that Terri Schiavo was better off dead than fed. This is not in keeping with the intent of Florida's civil rights and health and welfare statutes. It's not even close.

In July of 2005, nearly four months after Terri Schiavo's death of terminal dehydration occurred, Florida's Attorney General, Charlie Crist, called Judge Greer a hero. Crist opined that he was 'proud' of the judges in the Schiavo debacle for their 'defense of the judiciary' in a speech delivered to a roomful of attorneys in Miami. Has he completely lost his mind?

Firstly, the circuit court (specifically Judge Greer) overreached the applicable laws in ordering the death of Terri Schiavo. It is not to be missed that, because of dated changes in Florida's statutes, Terri could never have given legal and informed consent to what was done to her. Greer backhanded current law on her which is nothing short of legislating from the bench. Because of that, a good many disabled and elderly Floridians are now hanging in a sort of purgatory of civil rights deprivation.

Secondly, how heroic is it to order (not allow, mind you - order) the death of a disabled citizen, based solely on that disability and nothing else? Terri, after all, was healthy and not dying. Additionally, she had a blood family who begged to take her home and provide her care.

We Americans staunchly criticized the Third Reich (deservedly so) for exterminating what some estimates claim is as high as 600,000 disabled people through their T-4 Euthanasie Programme. We called it barbaric and aggressive eugenics. Remember?

Furthermore, we chimed that such atrocities would never happen again. Well... they are happening again. They are happening here, by God. And those causing the forced deaths of non-dying but neurologically compromised people are being called heroes?

Certainly, this is the most bizarre and ironic labeling we've ever witnessed. But, it gets better.

On August 5, the Florida State Guardianship Association honored Michael Schiavo for carrying out what he claimed was his wife's wishes. They even gave him an etched paperweight. How smashing that will look on his mantle.

What the Florida State Guardianship Association apparently did not take into consideration was the court and public record of Mr. Schiavo's track record as a guardian:

  • He failed to complete statutorily mandated guardian education requirements for years on end after his appointment.

  • He failed to provide ordinary feminine and dental care for his ward for nearly a decade. As a result, Terri had five decayed and rotting teeth extracted in 2004.

  • He has failed, year after year, to file statutorily mandated guardianship plans, filed them after the year in question, filed them with no plan of action or care and has been excused for this - even though it is a requirement.

  • He confined his ward to a single hospice room, though she was not terminally ill, placed her on dole and at a time when she had plenty of money to facilitate long term care. Some news outlets and attorneys have already scrutinized this as Medicare fraud.

But, he's a hero. Just like the judge that overreached his jurisdiction and authority by ordering a disabled person to die. Based on the flimsiest of evidence and not the clear and convincing standard required in such proceedings, an administrative probate judge held more power to end a life than the United States Congress, the Governor of the state of Florida and the whole of Florida law enforcement held to protect it.

And, for that, he's called a hero. Michael's a hero. Everyone's a bloody hero when it comes to offing someone who has become inconvenient.

That's a damn sick message to be sending to guardians and jurists, for these players didn't do anything beyond serving themselves in the end. A hero is someone who defends the weak, promotes harmony and values anyone and everyone - irrespective of their abilities.

Mother Theresa was a hero. Her motto was "It is a kingly act to assist the fallen". I find that so brilliant in its simplicity that I head my own blog with those words. Think about them for a moment.

Helping the fallen is truly an heroic and enviable calling. Killing them is murder. That is, unless, you're in Florida. Here, offing people without any rock-solid proof they would do such a dramatic thing to themselves is what is honored. Here, clearing out a nursing home bed and forever damaging the rights of elderly and disabled people is something to cheer about.

It's a bizarro world, but at least it ain't snowing. Welcome to Florida!

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Pamela F. Hennessy is a marketing and media executive in Florida and has volunteered for the Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation (www.terrisfight.org) since November of 2002.

Posted by tim at August 7, 2005 7:10 PM


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