The relativity of "value" is clear, particularly as it may apply to a principle or quality,
rather than empirical measurement.
If the Guardian Ad Litem's recommendations are neither feasible nor valuable to and
on behalf of Theresa Schiavo, then they fail in their purpose. For them to be feasible and
valuable, they must be capable of being done in a manner that affords relative and
intrinsic worth for Theresa; not for her husband; not for her parents and siblings; not for
the Governor or the Legislature.
The history and key legal/medical events that have occurred since Theresa's tragic
accident informed the charge to the Guardian Ad Litem.
Historical Facts in Theresa Marie Schiavo's Case
Theresa Marie Schiavo was born in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area on 3 December
1963 to Robert and Mary Schindler. She has two, younger siblings, Robert Jr., and
Susan. Through the age of 18, Theresa was, according to her parents, very overweight,
until she chose to lose weight with the guidance of a physician. She dropped from 250
pounds to around 150 pounds, at which time she met Michael Schiavo. They dated for
many months and married in November of 1984. The Schiavo and Schindler families
were close and friendly.
Theresa and Michael moved to Florida in 1986 and were followed shortly thereafter by
Theresa's parents and siblings. Theresa worked for the Prudential Life Insurance
Company and Michael was a restaurant manager.
About three years later, without the apparent knowledge of her parents, Theresa and
Michael sought assistance in becoming pregnant through an obstetrician who specialized
in fertility services. For over a year, Theresa and Michael received fertility services and
counseling in order to enhance their strongly held desire to have a child. By this time,
Theresa's weight had dropped even further, to 110 pounds. She was very proud of her
fabulous figure and her stunning appearance, wearing bikini bathing suits for the first
time and taking great pride in her improved good looks. Testimony and photographs bare
witness to these facts.
On the tragic early morning of 25 February 1990, Theresa collapsed in the hallway of her
apartment, waking Michael, who called Theresa's family and 911. The lives of Theresa,
Michael and the Schindlers were to change forever.
Theresa suffered a cardiac arrest. During the several minutes it took for paramedics to
arrive, Theresa experienced loss of oxygen to the brain, or anoxia, for a period
sufficiently long to cause permanent loss of brain function. Despite heroic efforts to
resuscitate, Theresa remained unconscious and slipped into a coma. She was intubated,
ventilated and trached, meaning that she was given life saving medical technological
interventions, without which she surely would have died that day.
The cause of the cardiac arrest was adduced to a dramatically reduced potassium level in
Theresa's body. Sodium and potassium maintain a vital, chemical balance in the human
body that helps define the electrolyte levels. The cause of the imbalance was not clearly
identified, but may be linked, in theory, to her drinking 10-15 glasses of iced tea each
day. While no formal proof emerged, the medical records note that the combination of
aggressive weight loss, diet control and excessive hydration raised questions about
Theresa suffering from Bulimia, an eating disorder, more common among women than
men, in which purging through vomiting, laxatives and other methods of diet control
Theresa spent two and a half months as an inpatient at Humana Northside Hospital,
eventually emerging from her coma state, but not recovering consciousness. On 12 May
1990, following extensive testing, therapy and observation, she was discharged to the
College Park skilled care and rehabilitation facility. Forty-nine days later, she was
transferred again to Bayfront Hospital for additional, aggressive rehabilitation efforts. In
September of 1990, she was brought home, but following only three weeks, she was
returned to the College Park facility because the "family was overwhelmed by Terry's
On 18 June 1990, Michael was formally appointed by the court to serve as Theresa's
legal guardian, because she was adjudicated to be incompetent by law. Michael's
appointment was undisputed by the parties.
The clinical records within the massive case file indicate that Theresa was not responsive
to neurological and swallowing tests. She received regular and intense physical,
occupational and speech therapies.
Theresa's husband, Michael Schiavo and her mother, Mary Schindler, were virtual
partners in their care of and dedication to Theresa. There is no question but that complete
trust, mutual caring, explicit love and a common goal of caring for and rehabilitating
Theresa, were the shared intentions of Michael Shiavo and the Schindlers.
In late Autumn of 1990, following months of therapy and testing, formal diagnoses of
persistent vegetative state with no evidence of improvement, Michael took Theresa to
California, where she received an experimental thalamic stimulator implant in her brain.
Michael remained in California caring for Theresa during a period of several months and
returned to Florida with her in January of 1991. Theresa was transferred to the Mediplex
Rehabilitation Center in Brandon, where she received 24 hour skilled care, physical,
occupational, speech and recreational therapies.
Despite aggressive therapies, physician and other clinical assessments consistently
revealed no functional abilities, only reflexive, rather than cognitive movements, random
eye opening, no communication system and little change cognitively or functionally.
On 19 July 1991 Theresa was transferred to the Sable Palms skilled care facility.
Periodic neurological exams, regular and aggressive physical, occupational and speech
therapy continued through 1994.
Michael Schiavo, on Theresa's and his own behalf, initiated a medical malpractice
lawsuit against the obstetrician who had been overseeing Theresa's fertility therapy. In
1993, the malpractice action concluded in Theresa and Michael's favor, resulting in a two
element award: More than $750,000 in economic damages for Theresa, and a loss of
consortium award (non economic damages) of $300,000 to Michael. The court
established a trust fund for Theresa's financial award, with SouthTrust Bank as the
Guardian and an independent trustee. This fund was meticulously managed and
accounted for and Michael Schiavo had no control over its use. There is no evidence in
the record of the trust administration documents of any mismanagement of Theresa's
estate, and the records on this matter are excellently maintained.
After the malpractice case judgment, evidence of disaffection between the Schindlers and
Michael Schiavo openly emerged for the first time. The Schindlers petitioned the court
to remove Michael as Guardian. They made allegations that he was not caring for
Theresa, and that his behavior was disruptive to Theresa's treatment and condition.
Proceedings concluded that there was no basis for the removal of Michael as Guardian
Further, it was determined that he had been very aggressive and attentive in his care of
Theresa. His demanding concern for her well being and meticulous care by the nursing
home earned him the characterization by the administrator as "a nursing home
administrator's nightmare". It is notable that through more than thirteen years after
Theresa's collapse, she has never had a bedsore.
By 1994, Michael's attitude and perspective about Theresa's condition changed. During
the previous four years, he had insistently held to the premise that Theresa could recover
and the evidence is incontrovertible that he gave his heart and soul to her treatment and
care. This was in the face of consistent medical reports indicating that there was little or
no likelihood for her improvement.
In early 1994 Theresa contracted a urinary tract infection and Michael, in consultation
with Theresa's treating physician, elected not to treat the infection and simultaneously
imposed a "do not resuscitate" order should Theresa experience cardiac arrest. When the
nursing facility initiated an intervention to challenge this decision, Michael cancelled the
orders. Following the incident involving the infection, Theresa was transferred to another
skilled nursing facility.
Michael's decision not to treat was based upon discussions and consultation with
Theresa's doctor, and was predicated on his reasoned belief that there was no longer any
hope for Theresa's recovery. It had taken Michael more than three years to accommodate
this reality and he was beginning to accept the idea of allowing Theresa to die naturally
rather than remain in the non-cognitive, vegetative state. It took Michael a long time to
consider the prospect of getting on with his life something he was actively encouraged
to do by the Schindlers, long before enmity tore them apart. He was even encouraged by
the Schindlers to date, and introduced his in-law family to women he was dating. But
this was just prior to the malpractice case ending.
As part of the first challenge to Michael's Guardianship, the court appointed John H.
Pecarek as Guardian Ad Litem to determine if there had been any abuse by Michael
Schiavo. His report, issued 1 March 1994, found no inappropriate actions and indicated
that Michael had been very attentive to Theresa. After two more years of legal
contention, the Schindlers action against Michael was dismissed with prejudice. Efforts
to remove Michael as Guardian were attempted in subsequent years, without success.
Hostilities increased and the Schindlers and Michael Schiavo did not communicate
directly. By June of 1996, the court had to order that copies of medical reports be shared
with the Schindlers and that all health care providers be permitted to discuss Theresa's
condition with the Schindlers something Michael had temporarily precluded.
In 1997, six years after Theresa's tragic collapse, Michael elected to initiate an action to
withdraw artificial life support from Theresa. More than a year later, in May of 1998, the
first petition to discontinue life support was entered. The court appointed Richard Pearse,
Esq., to serve as Guardian Ad Litem to review the request for withdrawal, a standard
Mr. Pearse's report, submitted to the court on 20 December 1998 contains what appear to
be objective and challenging findings. His review of the clinical record confirmed that
Theresa's condition was that of a diagnosed persistent vegetative state with no chance of
improvement. Mr. Pearse's investigation concluded that the statements of Mrs.
Schindler, Theresa's mother, indicated that Theresa displayed special responses, mostly
to her, but that these were not observed or documented.
Mr. Pearse documents the evolving disaffections between the Schindlers and Michael
Schiavo. He concludes that Michael Schiavo's testimony regarding the basis for his
decision to withdraw life support a conversation he had with his wife, Theresa, was not
clear and convincing, and that potential conflicts of interest regarding the disposition of
residual funds in Theresa's trust account following her death affected Michael and the
Schindlers but he placed greater emphasis on the impact it might have had on Michael's
decision to discontinue artificial life support. At the time of Mr. Pearse's report, more
than $700,000 remained in the guardianship estate.
Mr. Pearse concludes that Michael's hearsay testimony about Theresa's intent is
"necessarily adversely affected by the obvious financial benefit to him of being the sole
heir at law
" and "
by the chronology of this case
", specifically referencing
Michael's change in position relative to maintaining Theresa following the malpractice
Mr. Pearse recommended that the petition for removal of the feeding tube be denied, or in
the alternative, if the court found the evidence to be clear and convincing, the feeding
tube should be withdrawn.
Mr. Pearse also recommended that a Guardian Ad Litem continue to serve in all
In response to Mr. Pearse's report, Michael Schiavo filed a Suggestion of Bias against
Mr. Pearse. This document notes that Mr. Pearse failed to mention in his report that
Michael Schiavo had earlier, formally offered to divest himself entirely of his financial
interest in the guardianship estate. The criticism continues to note that Mr. Pearse's
concern about abuse of inheritance potential was directly solely at Michael, not at the
Schindlers in the event they might become the heirs and also choose to terminate artificial
life support. Further, significant chronological deficits and factual errors are noted,
detracting from and prejudicing the objective credibility of Mr. Pearse's report.
The Suggestion of Bias challenges premises and findings of Mr. Pearse, establishing a
well pleaded case for bias.
In February of 1999, Mr. Pearse tendered his petition for additional authority or
discharge. He was discharged in June of 1999 and no new Guardian Ad Litem was
Actions by the Schindlers to remove Michael as Guardian and to block the petition to
remove artificial life support took on a frenetic quality at this juncture. More external
parties on both sides made appearances as potential interveners.
On 11 February 2000, consequent to hearings and the presentation of competent
evidence, Judge Greer ordered the removal of Theresa's artificial life support.
The Schindlers aggressively sought means by which to stop the removal of Theresa's
feeding tube. Most of the motions in these efforts were denied, but not without apparent
careful and detailed review by the court, often involving hearings at which considerable
latitude was afforded the Schindlers in their efforts to proffer testimony and admit
The motion and hearing process continued through 2000. Then the Schindler's sought to
introduce new evidence that was believed to be of a sufficiently substantial nature as to
change the court's decision regarding the removal of the feeding tube.
The hearings and testimony before the trial court leading to the decision to discontinue
artificial life support included admitted hearsay from Theresa's brother-in-law (Michael
Schiavo's brother) and his wife (Michael's Schiavo's sister-in-law) along with testimony
The testimony of these parties referenced specific conversations in which Theresa
commented about her desire never to be placed on artificial life support. The testimony
reflected conversations at or proximate to funerals of close family members who had
been on artificial life support. The context and content of the testimony, while hearsay,
was deemed credible and consistent and was used by the court as a supporting bases for
its decision to discontinue artificial life support.
The Schindler's new evidence ostensibly reflected adversely on Michael Schiavo's role
as Guardian. It related to his personal romantic life, the fact that he had relationships
with other women, that he had allegedly failed to provide appropriate care and treatment
for Theresa, that he was wasting the assets within the guardianship account, and that he
was no longer competent to represent Theresa's best interests.
Testimony provided by members of the Schindler family included very personal
statements about their desire and intention to ensure that Theresa remain alive.
Throughout the course of the litigation, deposition and trial testimony by members of the
Schindler family voiced the disturbing belief that they would keep Theresa alive at any
and all costs. Nearly gruesome examples were given, eliciting agreement by family
members that in the event Theresa should contract diabetes and subsequent gangrene in
each of her limbs, they would agree to amputate each limb, and would then, were she to
be diagnosed with heart disease, perform open heart surgery. There was additional,
difficult testimony that appeared to establish that despite the sad and undesirable
condition of Theresa, the parents still derived joy from having her alive, even if Theresa
might not be at all aware of her environment given the persistent vegetative state. Within
the testimony, as part of the hypotheticals presented, Schindler family members stated
that even if Theresa had told them of her intention to have artificial nutrition withdrawn,
they would not do it. Throughout this painful and difficult trial, the family acknowledged
that Theresa was in a diagnosed persistent vegetative state.
The court denied the Schindler's motions to remove the guardian, allowing that the
evidence was not sufficient and in some instances, not relevant. It set a date for the
artificial life support to be discontinued, as of 24 April 2001.
The decision was appealed to the Florida 2nd District Court of Appeals (DCA), and was
affirmed in January 2001. The requested appeal to the Florida Supreme Court was denied
on 23 April 2001, one day before the scheduled removal of Theresa's feeding tube.
On 24 April 2001, Theresa Schiavo's artificial feeding tube was clamped, and she ceased
receiving nutrition and hydration. Under normal circumstances, Theresa would die
naturally within a week to ten days.
Two days after the clamping of Theresa's feeding tube, the Schindlers filed a civil action
in their capacity as "natural guardians" for Theresa. The trial court, in emergency
review, granted a temporary injunction and the tube was unclamped. Michael Schiavo
filed an emergency motion to vacate the injunction. This led to the second review and
appeal to the 2nd DCA.
The 2nd DCA found that the intention of Florida Statutes 765 with respect to matters such
as Theresa's, is to help expedite proceedings of the court when decisions have been made
by the bona fide guardian. The 2nd DCA also noted that the Court had acted
independently as proxy decision maker regarding the removal of artificial life support.
In October 2001, the 2nd DCA concluded that the Schindlers "have presented no credible
evidence suggesting new treatment can restore Mrs. Schiavo." The injunction was lifted
and plans moved forward to discontinue artificial nutrition.
Fresh and exhaustive motions regarding new evidence were again crafted and proffered
to the trial court by the Schindlers resulting in a lengthy hearing. Affidavits from medical
doctors and others alleged that Theresa's condition could be improved.
In particular, the sworn statement of a single, osteopathic physician, Dr. Webber, claimed
that he could improve Theresa's condition and had done so in like and similar cases.
The quality of evidence in this affidavit was marginal, but the court allowed it to create a
colorable entitlement to additional medical review. The case was remanded to the trial
court with the charge that each side would select two expert physicians (a neurologist or a
neurosurgeon, according to the court) and agree between them regarding a fifth, and if
they could not agree on the fifth, the court would select it.
By May of 2002, the physicians were selected by both sides, but no agreement could be
reached about a fifth, so the court selected one. Curiously and surprisingly, Dr. Webber,
who had served as the basis for this entire process at the 2nd DCA, did not participate in
the exams or the procedure.
Each of the physicians was afforded access to Theresa for the purpose of conducting a
thorough examination. Video tape recordings were made of some of the examinations
along with segments in which family members interacted with Theresa. The physicians
were deposed and proffered testimony regarding their findings.
Written reports of the examinations were prepared by all five physicians, and a very
detailed hearing was held in October of 2002.
The clinical evidence presented by the five physicians reflected their examinations and
reviews of the medical records. Four of the physicians were board certified in neurology,
as suggested by the court, and one physician was board certified in radiology and
hyperbaric medicine. All of the physicians had excellent pedigrees of medical training.
The scientific quality, value and relevance of the testimony varied. The two neurologists
testifying for Michael Schiavo provided strong, academically based, and scientifically
supported evidence that was reasonably deemed clear and convincing by the court. Of
the two physicians testifying for the Schindlers, only one was a neurologist, the other was
a radiologist/hyperbaric physician. The testimony of the Schindler's physicians was
substantially anecdotal, and was reasonably deemed to be not clear and convincing.
The fifth physician, chosen by the court because the two parties could not agree,
presented scientifically grounded, academically based evidence that was reasonably
deemed to be clear and convincing by the court.
Following exhaustive testimony and the viewing of video tapes, the trial court concluded
that no substantial evidence had been presented to indicate any promising treatment that
might improve Theresa's cognition. The court sought to glean scientific, case, research-
based foundations for the contentions of the Schindler's physician experts, but received
principally anecdotal information.
Evidence presented by Michael Schiavo's two physicians and the fifth physician selected
by the court was reasonably deemed clear and convincing in support of Theresa being in
a persistent vegetative state with no hope for improvement.
Simultaneous appeals of this decision and renewed actions to remove Michael Schiavo as
Guardian were initiated based upon new evidence.
The June 2003 appeal to the 2nd DCA was Schiavo IV. The 2nd DCA panel of judges
engaged in what approximated a de novo review of all of the facts, testimony and video
tapes presented at trial. The appellate court affirmed the trial court's ruling and its
conclusions, and in addition, ordered the trial court to set a hearing date for removal of
the artificial life support.
The trial court set 15 October 2003 as the date for the removal of Theresa's artificial
The Schindler's renewed efforts to remove Michael Schiavo as Guardian, and to
disqualify judges, were not successful. Multiple amicus briefs and affidavits from parties
supporting the Schindler's were submitted through the Schindler's actions and in some
instances, independently to the court.
By mid 2003, the landscape and texture of Theresa Schiavo's case underwent profound
changes. National media coverage, active involvement by groups advocating right to life,
and the attention of the Governor's office and the Florida Legislature, catapulted
Theresa's case into a different dimension.
The Schindlers, acting on behalf of Theresa, filed a motion in federal district court
seeking a preliminary injunction to stay the removal of the artificial life support from
Theresa, scheduled to occur on 15 October 2003. On 6 October 2003, Florida Governor
Jeb Bush filed an Amicus brief in support of the motion for a preliminary injunction. The
brief argues that removal of artificial nutrition, resulting in death, should be avoided if
that person can take oral nutrition and hydration. The Governor predicates his
memorandum on the pivotal question as to whether Theresa could ingest food and water
on her own. That Theresa is in a diagnosed, persistent vegetative state is explicitly
On 15 October 2003, Theresa Maria Schiavo's artificial feeding tube was disconnected,
for the second time.
The Florida legislature, in special session, passed HB 35 E on 21 October 2003,
authorizing the Governor to stay the disconnection of the artificial feeding tube and
required, among other things, the appointment of a Guardian Ad Litem to produce this
On that same day, 21 October 2003, the artificial feeding tube was re-inserted per the stay
ordered by Governor Bush. Other suits and actions were initiated immediately. The
governor became a named party in the matters involving Theresa Schiavo.
This Guardian Ad Litem is not addressing any of the Constitutional causes of action
arising subsequent to the passage of HB 35 E and the Governor's action.
In addition to the historical facts in the case, a summary of the nature of Florida's legal
and policy treatment of decisions involving death and dying, artificial life support, and
artificial nutrition, are essential to the charge of the Guardian Ad Litem.
Guardian Ad Litem's Findings
The Information Acquisition Process
Upon appointment, this Guardian Ad Litem met with the Schindler family and their
attorneys, Michael Schiavo and his attorney, and with the Ward, Theresa Marie Schiavo.
The establishment of a trusting relationship with all of the parties was a priority in order
to ensure that any recommendations would be feasible and valuable. Only thirty days
were afforded to the process.
All court records were accessed and reviewed, including all items of evidence in the case.
Extensive discussions were held with family members and caregivers along with the
acquisition and review of background data and information from the case file to assist the
Guardian Ad Litem in becoming as personally acquainted with his ward, Theresa Schiavo
as possible, in the short time available. The Guardian Ad Litem has made numerous and
frequent visits to Theresa at the hospice where she resides, including an arranged visit
with her parents to observe interactions. The Guardian ad Litem has met with and
discussed aspects of Theresa's case with hospice staff, physician cardiologists,
gastroenterologists, internists, neurologists, neurosurgeons, trauma specialists,
anesthesiologists, swallowing disorder specialists; speech pathologists specializing in
rehabilitation, swallowing tests and swallowing therapy; and with clergy, elder law
specialists, bioethicists, and health policy specialists. In addition to reading the nearly
30,000 pages of court records, the Guardian Ad Litem has conducted a review of the
medical literature and has received thousands of unsolicited documents, sources of
referral, claims regarding successful interventions, and wishes of good luck. Governor
Bush, to whom this report is directed, requested a meeting with the Guardian Ad Litem to
discuss the charge. The Guardian Ad Litem met with the Governor, his General Counsel
and private external counsel to review the Guardian Ad Litem's plan and direction. The
meeting was valuable in establishing the expanded trust among the parties that the
Guardian Ad Litem has sought to cultivate from the inception if his appointment.
The Evolution of the Law about Dying and Nutrition in Florida
Our society is at a legal, political, biotechnological, bioethical and spiritual crossroad.
Theresa Schiavo is alternately depicted as a living, loving person, capable of interacting
at a level of cognition with her family and deserving of the right to continue to live ---
and as a tragically and profoundly brain damaged person, who earlier expressed a desire
never to find herself in a circumstance analogous to waking up in a coffin and being
there forever. But she cannot speak to us now. So we must rely upon the auspices of
good law and good medicine and the good intentions of those who marshal these arts in
order to do our best to do the right thing well for Theresa Schiavo.
During the early 1970s the States began to revise their Probate Codes. There were many
reasons for this, including a rapidly aging population, larger numbers of aged persons in
the population, people living longer, new and advancing medical technologies that
enhanced, extended and affected life, and changing values and orientations about death,
dying and the medical-decision processes. These matters have been seriously addressed
through a combination of inquiries and actions by church leaders, legislators, medical
scientists, and the courts, as all have sought to respond to emerging issues such as those
in the Quinlan, Cruzan, Browning, and now the Schiavo cases.
States cooperated with the federal Administration on Aging to address legislative and
policy challenges surfacing around these matters. A particularly important topic related
to medical technology and its use in the care, treatment and maintenance of patients, is
when, who and by what means "artificial" life support and other medical interventions
should or could be removed or never withheld in the first place.
Today, most states would afford an adult person the right to deny most health care
treatments. But if the patient is a minor, unconscious, in a coma, in a vegetative state, or
unable to communicate personal wishes and intentions, there are serious moral, ethical
and legal questions that demanded attention. There had been inconsistencies, even within
states, as to how decisions regarding termination or removal or withholding a procedure
were made. There was also a long standing, well accepted recognition that the
relationship between the patient and the physician the sacred trust served as the
foundation for how and where and when many of these decisions would be made. Often,
physicians, in consultation with family members and the patient have done what was
deemed to be in best interests of the patient, given the physician's medical opinion and
the express, known or believed intentions of the patient.
To reduce ambiguities, many states began to encourage and accept written advance
directives as the basis for decisions regarding end of life treatment. Living wills, durable
powers of attorney for health care and health care surrogate documents, stating a person's
explicit intentions regarding end of life care, became increasingly accepted and even
formalized into the statutory framework of most states. A written expression was deemed
to be an important element in this process to avoid the possibility of confusion or
uncertainty with respect to a person's intention regarding their health and medical care.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Florida lawmakers struggled with how they would
provide individuals with the prerogatives for establishing their wishes regarding end of
life decisions, while at the same time, protecting against perceived and actual abuses and
assisted suicides. Among the most sensitive of issues is this regard has been the
withdrawal of artificial life support in the form of nutrition and hydration. The idea of
withholding or withdrawing these has created significant debates within and across
religious, philosophical and political groups and interests. But the topic has been
addressed at great lengths by each of these groups, and there is surprising consensus in
principle and even in practice.
The current, generally accepted applications to terminal illness or persistent vegetative
state define artificial feeding as artificial life support that may be withheld or withdrawn.
In 1989, the Florida Legislature permitted the withdrawal of artificial nutrition and
hydration under very specific circumstances. In 1999, following extensive bipartisan
efforts, life-prolonging procedures were redefined as "any medical procedure, treatment,
or intervention, including artificially provided sustenance and hydration, which sustains,
restores, or supplants a spontaneous vital function." It is noteworthy that the general
principle of artificial nutrition as artificial life support that may be removed in terminal
and even vegetative state conditions is reflected in nearly all state's laws and within the
guidelines of end of life care enunciated by the American Conference of Catholic
Bishops and other religious denominations.
These general principles are in no way intended to encourage or condone suicide or
assisted suicide. But they reflect the acceptance of artificial nutrition as artificial life
support that may be withdrawn or withheld as a matter of public policy, when these
decisions capture the intentions of the person and with the premise that people should not
be required to remain "artificially alive", or to have their natural peaceful deaths
postponed and prolonged if they would otherwise choose not to, and that they should be
allowed to die with dignity, and return, if their beliefs so accommodate, to God.
When written advance directives are not available, and the affected person is incompetent
and unable to communicate, a decision to discontinue nutrition and hydration is
especially challenging. But Florida law, as reflected in F.S. 765, and as interpreted
through In re Guardianship of Browning, 568 So. 2d 4 (Fla. 1990), provide for a
substituted judgment basis for such decisions and/or the presentation of clear and
convincing evidence to demonstrate the intentions of the person.
It has been suggested that in the case of incapacitated persons, particularly those who
have not expressed an advance directive, the "clear and convincing" evidence standard
for establishing the intent to discontinue artificial life support is insufficient and
incongruous. The insufficiency, it is argued, is because of the possibility of using
information that is not accurate, complete or even honest. The incongruity is related to
the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard that serves as the basis for decisions to convict
and then execute capitol felons.
If persons unable to speak for themselves have decisions made on their behalf by
guardians or family members, the potential for abuse, barring clear protections, could
lead to a "slippery slope" of actions to terminate the lives of disabled and incompetent
persons. And it is not difficult to imagine bad decisions being made in order to make life
easier for a family or to avoid spending funds remaining in the estate on the maintenance
of a person.
There is, of course, the other side of that slippery slope, which would be to keep people in
a situation they would never dream of: unable to die, unable to communicate, dependent
for everything, and unaware, being maintained principally or entirely through state
resources and for reasons that may relate to guilt, fear, needs or wants of family
members, rather than what the person's best wishes might otherwise have been.
And there is the chillingly practical, other public policy matter of the cost of maintaining
persons diagnosed in persistent vegetative states and terminal conditions alive for
potentially indefinite periods of time at what inevitably becomes public expense. Here
the "reasonable person" standard, with respect to how one would want to be treated were
they in Theresa's shoes affects the discussion. This is not easy stuff, and should not be.
In withholding or withdrawing life support, or in keeping a person alive, there is the risk
of transposing intentions and values. The reasoned, even substituted judgment decisions
of guardians or loved ones may be based upon either a "quality of life determination", or
the desires of family members. This remains a risk in a system that does not require an
explicit, advance directive.
Cruzan and the Role of States in Guidelines for Medical Decisions
A legal analysis of the tens of thousands of pages of documents in the case file, against
the statutory legal guidelines and the supporting case law, leads the GAL to conclude that
all of the appropriate and proper elements of the law have been followed and met. The
law has done its job well. The courts have carefully and diligently adhered to the
prescribed civil processes and evidentiary guidelines, and have painfully and diligently
applied the required tests in a reasonable, conscientious and professional manner. The
disposition of the courts, four times reviewed at the appellate level, and once refused
review by the Florida Supreme Court, has been that the trier of fact followed the law, did
its job, adhered to the rules and rendered a decision that, while difficult and painful, was
supported by the facts, the weight of the evidence and the law of Florida.
A prevailing legal sentiment is that matters such as those in Theresa's case are best
addressed by states, their legislatures and their courts rather than by the federal
Justice Scalia has admonished us to rely upon and accept the role of state lawmakers and
laws to address issues of this very nature. Though his point of reference was Missouri
law relative to an evidentiary standard, his message remains that it is up to states to
establish the rules and guidelines in these matters.
I would have preferred that we announce, clearly and promptly, that
the federal courts have no business in this field; that American law has always
accorded the State the power to prevent, by force if necessary, suicide - including
suicide by refusing to take appropriate measures necessary to preserve one's life;
that the point at which life becomes "worthless," and the point at which the means
necessary to preserve it become "extraordinary" or "inappropriate," are neither set
forth in the Constitution nor known to the nine Justices of this Court any better
than they are known to nine people picked at random from the Kansas City
telephone directory; and hence, that even when it is demonstrated by clear and
convincing evidence that a patient no longer wishes certain measures to be taken
to preserve her life, it is up to the citizens of Missouri to decide, through their
elected representatives, whether that wish will be honored. It is quite impossible
(because the Constitution says nothing about the matter) that those citizens will
decide upon a line less lawful than the one we would choose; and it is unlikely
(because we know no more about "life-and-death" than they do) that they will
decide upon a line less reasonable. (emphasis added) Cruzan v. Director, MDH,
497, U.S. 261 (1990)
And while he might not agree with a particular state's method for addressing a matter
he not only defers to the states but further admonishes us to avoid the politicization of
legislation in these matters:
I am concerned, from the tenor of today's opinions, that we are poised to confuse
that [497 U.S. 261, 293] enterprise as successfully as we have confused the
enterprise of legislating concerning abortion - requiring it to be conducted against
a background of federal constitutional imperatives that are unknown because they
are being newly crafted from Term to Term. That would be a great misfortune.
Cruzan v. Director, MDH, 497, U.S. 261 (1990)
In this context, it is vital to realize that Florida Statutes, Florida Rules of Evidence,
Florida Rules of Civil Procedure and Florida case law were the basis for the past 13 years
of litigation and conclusions of law in Theresa's case.
Florida carefully and intentionally crafted its laws about death and dying and decisions
about how persons, situated similarly to Theresa, might be treated by the law. While
Florida remains among a minority of states that has provisions for proxy and/or surrogate
decision making in matters of removal of artificial feeding when there is no written living
will it is fair to say that this was a conscious, deliberate process within the Florida
legislative arena. This process actively involved a broad cross section of political,
philosophical and religious interests, public hearings, and the deliberate sharing of very
specific language with vested parties, within and outside of government. Based upon
Justice Scalia's admonition, one should exercise caution in re-crafting state laws from
term to term.
Speaking with the majority in Cruzan, Justice Stevens further admonishes us to accept
state legislation in matters of death and dying:
"Choices about death touch the core of liberty. . . . [N]ot much may be said with
confidence about death unless it is said from faith, and that alone is reason enough
to protect the freedom to conform choices about death to individual conscience."
Our salvation is the Equal Protection Clause, which requires the democratic
majority to accept for themselves and their loved ones what they impose on you
and me. This Court need not, and has no authority to, inject itself into every field
of human activity [497 U.S. 261, 301] where irrationality and oppression may
theoretically occur, and if it tries to do so, it will destroy itself. (emphasis added)
Cruzan v. Director, MDH, 497, U.S. 261 (1990)
Justice O'Connor reinforces the High Court's view that it is to the states and their
legislative process that the Supreme Court turns to grapple with these matters:
Today we decide only that one State's practice does not violate the Constitution;
the more challenging task of crafting appropriate procedures for safeguarding
incompetents' liberty interests is entrusted to the "laboratory" of the States, New
State Ice Co. v. Liebmann, 285 U.S. 262, 311 (1932) (Brandeis, J., dissenting), in
the first instance. Cruzan v. Director, MDH, 497, U.S. 261 (1990)
And even if we are not happy with the result in a case or the application and
interpretation of the law, we are reminded by Chief Justice Renquist, writing for the
Court that general rules of law indeed, even the law itself, is neither flawless nor
But the Constitution does not require general rules to work faultlessly; no general
rule can. Cruzan v. Director, MDH, 497, U.S. 261 (1990)
In In re Guardianship of Browning, 568 So. 2d 4 (Fla. 1990) the Florida Supreme Court
highlighted a privacy interest in the decision regarding the removal of a feeding tube in
an elderly, sick woman. The reasoning and methods deployed in that case have served as
one of the foundations for the Florida courts' actions and conclusions in Theresa's case,
including the proxy power of the court to make decisions about discontinuation of
artificial life support. And while Browning can be distinguished from Theresa's case, it
was adopted by the trial court and the court of appeal reasonably and rationally.
But the law has failed to provide Theresa a conclusion and resolution.
The elements of the law include specific provisions for decision making regarding the
removal of artificial life support when explicit, written, advance directives have not been
executed by a person.
Not all states deploy the specific guidelines and measures adopted by Florida. Many
states refuse to accept anything but advance, written directives of the person as a basis for
removal of artificial life support. Florida has chosen to employ guidelines that include
surrogate decisions by the bona fide legal guardian and/or clear and convincing evidence
as to the intentions of the person.
In Theresa's case, evidence regarding her intentions consisted of admitted hearsay
regarding conversations between Theresa and her spouse and spousal relatives. The
context and nature of this hearsay were deemed sufficiently probative, competent and
reliable to serve as a basis for admission, and was determined to be sufficiently clear and
convincing. The court then served as proxy decision maker, essentially assuming the role
of legal guardian. The privacy interests of the person, as established in the Florida
Constitution, and as articulated with specificity in Browning (In re Guardianship of
Browning, 568 So. 2d 4 (Fla. 1990) ) served as the legitimate legal bases for the court's
conclusions to withdraw life support consistent with Florida Statute, 765.
Evidence regarding the persistent vegetative state consisted of highly credible medical
testimony and documentation reflecting both early and recently performed neurological
examinations and a case history that included early swallowing studies conducted
multiple times nearly ten years ago.
The Swallowing Test and Neurological Function
The review of the medical and clinical evidence in the case goes directly to the issues of
the feasibility and value of swallowing tests and swallowing therapy, and to the
relationship between neurological function and swallowing food and liquid.
Three, independent sets of swallowing tests were performed early in Theresa's medical
treatment: 1991, 1992 and 1993. Each of these determined that Theresa was not able to
swallow without risk of aspiration (and consequent infection).
Swallowing tests and swallowing therapy address many of the core issues in contention.
If Theresa can swallow, then she can take nutrition and hydration orally, and it is argued
that she would not elect to stop eating. But to orally eat and drink, Theresa must possess
cognitive capacity beyond mere reflex, or she will not only fail to ingest, but could easily
aspirate substances into her lungs and be subjected to infections and subsequent death.
If Theresa were capable of orally taking nutrition and hydration, this GAL suggests that
Theresa's reasoned best wishes might be not to choose to stop eating, depending upon the
difficulty, burden to others and costs involved. The conduct of swallowing tests by an
independent, competent clinician, shielded from the public process, would provide
competent, scientifically based medical evidence as to Theresa's ability to swallow and
whether swallowing therapy could improve her capability to orally eat and hydrate.
Three general methods of swallowing test can be performed to assess swallowing
capacity and swallowing potential. A bedside test examines cranial nerve function,
speech potential and trials of certain food textures through spoons, syringes, straws and
cups. It is relatively non-invasive and low risk, with the exception of silent aspiration
which is the unnoticed sucking of food or water into the lungs, rather than transporting it
down the throat.
The second is also bedside based test, call Flexible Endo Exam Swallowing (FEES). A
nasal tube is inserted and spontaneous swallowing is observed, again using various
textures of liquid and foods. This is a bit more objective and also has the advantage of
being done at the bedside.
The recognized gold standard test is the modified barium swallowing test, generally done
in a hospital or at a facility that has radiology equipment. Theresa's three previous tests
were barium swallowing tests.
Swallowing therapy, if swallowing potential is identified, may consist of posture
management (head and neck positioning), training to focus on the food ingestion process,
holding utensils and other activities. Electrical stimulation therapy has been promoted,
but there is no objective, scientific evidence as to its effectiveness or value.
The ability to orally ingest food and water to swallow substances other than saliva, is
predicated on a level of cognitive capacity. Without cognitive capacity, the intentional
act of oral nutrition and hydration is likely to lead to aspiration. Eating and drinking are
not unconscious processes. Therefore, Theresa's neurological status is directly linked to
her ability to swallow.
Early in Theresa's care, neurological examinations were performed to assess her
cognitive capacity. Competent medical practitioners determined that Theresa was in
what has been consistently defined as a persistent vegetative state a finding that
throughout the litigation was not disputed by either side. Quite recently, the Schindlers
have disputed that Theresa is in a persistent vegetative state, and in the alternative, they
have argued that even if she is, she deserves to live and be maintained via artificial
nutrition and hydration.
Like the law, which offers prescriptive guidelines to be applied on a case by case basis,
Neurology, a nationally recognized specialty within Medicine, has sought to define the
elements of disease states for purposes of treatment. The persistent vegetative state has
been accepted as a formal diagnosis in modern American medical practice and it is
recognized by American Academy of Neurology as:
The vegetative state is a clinical condition of complete unawareness of the self
and the environment, accompanied by sleep-wake cycles, with either complete or
partial preservation of hypothalmic and brain stem autonomic functions. In
addition, patients in a vegetative state show no evidence of sustained,
reproducible, purposeful, or voluntary behavioral responses to visual, auditory,
tactile, or noxious stimuli; show no evidence of language comprehension or
expression; have bowel and bladder incontinence; and have variably preserved
cranial-nerve and spinal reflexes. We define persistent vegetative state as a
vegetative state present one month after acute traumatic or nontraumatic brain
injury, or lasting in least one month in patients with degenerative or metabolic
disorders or developmental malformations.
The Multi-Society Task for on PVS, Medical Aspects of the Persistent Vegetative
State, New England Journal of Medicine, 330:1499-1508, May 26, 1994.
A particularly disarming aspect of persons diagnosed with persistent vegetative state is
that they have waking and sleeping cycles. When awake, their eyes are often open, they
make noises, they appear to track movement, they respond to deep pain, and appear
startled by loud noises. Further, because the autonomic nervous system those brain
related functions are not affected, they can often breathe (without a respirator) and
swallow (saliva). But there is no purposeful, reproducible, interactive, awareness. There
is some controversy within the scientific medical literature regarding the characterization
and diagnosis of persons in a persistent vegetative state. Highly competent, scientifically
based physicians using recognized measures and standards have deduced, within a high
degree of medical certainty, that Theresa is in a persistent vegetative state. This evidence
Terri is a living, breathing human being. When awake, she sometimes groans, makes
noises that emulate laughter or crying, and may appear to track movement. But the
scientific medical literature and the reports this GAL obtained from highly respected
neuro-science researchers indicate that these activities are common and characteristic of
persons in a persistent vegetative state.
In the month during which the GAL conducted research, interviews and compiled
information, he sought to visit with Theresa as often as possible, sometimes daily, and
sometimes, more than once each day. During that time, the GAL was not able to
independently determine that there were consistent, repetitive, intentional, reproducible
interactive and aware activities. When Theresa's mother and father were asked to join
the GAL, there was no success in eliciting specific responses. Hours of observed video
tape recordings of Theresa offer little objective insight about her awareness and
interactive behaviors. There are instances where she appears to respond specifically to
her mother. But these are not repetitive or consistent. There were instances during the
GAL's visits, when responses seemed possible, but they were not consistent in any way.
This having been said, Theresa has a distinct presence about her. Being with Theresa,
holding her hand, looking into her eyes and watching how she is lovingly treated by
Michael, her parents and family and the clinical staff at hospice is an emotional
experience. It would be easy to detach from her if she were comatose, asleep with her
eyes closed and made no noises. This is the confusing thing for the lay person about
persistent vegetative states.
Theresa's neurological tests and CT scans indicate objective measures of the persistent
vegetative state. These data indicate that Theresa's cerebral cortex is principally liquid,
having shrunken due to the severe anoxic trauma experienced thirteen years ago. The
initial oxygen deprivation caused damage that could not be repaired, and the brain tissue
in that area continued to devolve. It is noteworthy to recall that from the time of her
collapse, and for more than three years, Theresa did receive active physical, occupational,
speech and even recreational therapy. There is evidence early in her records of care that
she said "no" during physical therapy session. That behavior did not recur and was not
In recent months, individuals have come forward indicating that there are therapies and
treatments and interventions that can literally re-grow Theresa's functional, cerebral
cortex brain tissue, restoring part or all of her functions. There is no scientifically valid,
medically recognized evidence that this has been done or is possible, even in rats,
according to the president of the American Society for Neuro-Transplantation. It is
imaginable that some day such things may be possible; but holding out such promises to
families of severely brain injured persons today may be a profound disservice.
In the observed circumstances, the behavior that Theresa manifests is attributable to brain
stem and forebrain functions that are reflexive, rather than cognitive. And the substantive
difference according to neurologists and neurosurgeons is that reflexive activities of this
nature are neither conscious nor aware activities. And without cognition, there is no
awareness. (Descartes addressed this in his proposition that it is our awareness, our
consciousness that defines our being: "Cogito, ergo sum". This logic would imply that
unless we are aware and conscious, we cease to be.)
By all measures in the literature, Theresa has beaten the odds in terms of surviving her
persistent vegetative state condition. While younger persons fare better than older
victims, life spans rarely, according to the American Academy of Neurology, exceed ten
years following the onset of the condition. Persons who have been comatose have worse
outcomes than those who have not. But Theresa has also far outlived any documented
periods from which persons in persistent vegetative states have emerged in any functional
capacity. The reasonable degree of medical certainty associated with her diagnosis and
prognosis is very high.
Overcoming the Enmity and Disagreement Regarding the Medical Outcome
The parties cooperated completely with the GAL during the thirty day investigation,
analysis and report preparation. The issue of feasibility and value, raised in the court
charge, and discussed throughout this report, provided the basis for very serious
discussions among the parties regarding an agreement to pursue an alternative process in
order to resolve the disputes in this matter and gain closure for Theresa.
During the final days of this investigation, an agreement, designed and titled a "platform
of understanding" for an agreement in principle, was sculpted. Elements of the platform
were acceptable and there was preliminary and contingent agreement in principle to the
intent and much of the content of the drafts. All three parties, the Schindlers, Michael
Schiavo, and the Office of the Governor, through their respective attorneys, participated
actively in this process. The agreement was based, in good part, on the trusting
relationship that evolved between the GAL and the parties during the investigation. It
was expected that the parties would make a joint request to the court to allow and
facilitate the agreement to be carried out.
The evening before the deadline for the submission of this report, the negotiations
surrounding the agreement broke down, and the parties were not able to achieve what
would have been an agreement in principle to engage in a new and different process. The
outline of this agreement is in Appendix I.
Summary of Guardian Ad Litem Recommendations
Restatement of Questions and Recommendations
1. Should the Governor lift the stay that he previously entered relative to Theresa
Schiavo's feeding tube?
a. Yes. The Governor should lift the stay, if valid, independent scientific
medical evidence clearly indicates that Theresa has no reasonable medical
hope of regaining any swallowing function and/or if there is no evidence
of cognitive function and no hope of improvement.
b. No. The Governor should not lift the stay if valid, independent scientific
medical evidence clearly indicates that Theresa has a reasonable medical
hope of regaining any swallowing function and/or if there is evidence of
cognitive function with or without hope of improvement.
2. Is there feasibility and value in swallowing tests and swallowing therapy given the
totality of circumstances?
a. Yes. There is feasibility and value in swallowing tests and swallowing
therapy being administered if the parties agree in advance as to how the
results of these tests will be used with respect to the decision about
Theresa's future. If the parties do not agree in advance as to how the tests
will be used, then the court must be prepared to once again make a final
judgment on the matter. Given the history of the case, this would not, in
and of itself, assure a resolution, and is not, therefore, deemed either
feasible or of value to Theresa Schiavo without prior agreement.
The GAL concludes from the medical records and consultations with medical experts that
the scope and weight of the medical information within the file concerning Theresa
Schiavo consists of competent, well documented information that she is in a persistent
vegetative state with no likelihood of improvement, and that the neurological and speech
pathology evidence in the file support the contention that she cannot take oral nutrition or
hydration and cannot consciously interact with her environment.
The GAL concludes that the trier of fact and the evidence that served as the basis for the
decisions regarding Theresa Schiavo were firmly grounded within Florida statutory and
case law, which clearly and unequivocally provide for the removal of artificial nutrition
in cases of persistent vegetative states, where there is no advance directive, through
substituted/proxy judgment of the guardian and/or the court as guardian, and with the use
of evidence regarding the medical condition and the intent of the parties that was deemed,
by the trier of fact to be clear and convincing.
The GAL concludes the Guardian Ad Litem appointment be extended until a resolution is
concluded in the matter of Theresa Maria Schiavo.
The rules were adhered to and they are the laws of this state. Again, Justice Renquist in
Cruzan: "But the Constitution does not require general rules to work faultlessly; no
general rule can." Cruzan v. Director, MDH, 497, U.S. 261 (1990)
We remain in Theresa Schiavo's shoes. END
__________________________ 1 December 2003
PLATFORM OF UNDERSTANDING
Good faith efforts marked the Guardian Ad Litem's investigation, interviews and
research process. All parties were professional, civil and helpful. It is noted that the
Governor's amicus brief to the federal district court served as a guidepost for the GAL's
crafting of the platform. In that amicus brief, the Governor implied the importance of
obtaining valid, scientifically-based medical information in order to address certain
unresolved matters affecting Theresa. The platform that was developed remains a
template that can afford the parties a vehicle for achieving a common ground upon which
to resolve the central disputed matters that have precluded closure for Theresa Schiavo.
Perhaps more time is needed. The elements of the platform of understanding, as last
discussed are presented below.
As of the deadline for submission of this report, the parties are deeply engaged in the
vicissitudes of a constitutional challenge to the law that afforded the Governor the
authority to stay the removal of Theresa's artificial feeding tube. The parties have had
little or no opportunity or inclination, during the nearly ten years of legal hostilities, to
effectively seek an alternative approach to their dispute. As a consequence, uncertainties
remain on all sides of the issue. And there is now a third side: the Governor.
The constitutional challenge may take weeks, if not months to wind its way through the
Florida circuit, appeals and supreme court processes. The Governor's involvement has
added a new and unexpected dimension to the litigation. It is reasonable to expect that
the exquisite lawyering will continue, and the greatly enhanced public visibility of the
case may increase the probability of more litigation, more parties entering as intervenors,
and efforts to expand the case into federal jurisdiction.
Given this scenario, it is possible that continued delay could afford the Florida
Legislature the opportunity to amend certain provisions of F.S. 765 to make the law more
consistent with the majority of states that require written advance directives. The GAL
believes this would be unfortunate. But were this to occur before the case resolved in the
courts, it is possible that the evidentiary basis used in Theresa's previous cases would
become unacceptable, and new litigation could arise around a new law's application. In
this scenario, the litigation process could continue for months, if not years. This would
leave Theresa in the continued netherworld of the unresolved, unless Mr. Schiavo
determined that he would no longer pursue the matter.
In the alternative, the constitutional challenge could be addressed expeditiously by the
court system, and in the event the law is deemed unconstitutional by the circuit court and
affirmed at the district court of appeal and the supreme court, the entire process could end
there. In this scenario, and given the well articulated position of the majority of the U.S.
Supreme Court, it is possible that the case would not be accepted for review. It would be
a good example, given the opinions in Cruzan, to leave matters such as this to the states
and their legislative and judicial processes.
That scenario, if played out with reasonable speed, would lead to a final determination
that Theresa's artificial nutrition should be terminated. For the third time, she could have
the tube clamped or removed. She would then die within a week to ten days. Unless,
some new legal maneuver intervened again resulting in a new stay.
PLATFORM OF UNDERSTANDING FOR
ARRIVING AT A RESOLUTION
IN THE MATTER OF THERESA MARIE SCHIAVO
(Abandoned 30 November 2003)
All parties agree that the legal, medical and political issues surrounding Theresa Schiavo
have made it difficult to come to any meeting of the minds among the parties regarding
what is best for her.
All parties agree that their intention is to do what is best for Theresa.
All parties agree that the current circumstance has created the need for clarity and focus
with respect to what is best for Theresa to the extent possible, outside the press and
even open court.
All parties agree that core issues persistently raised with respect to Theresa's condition
that have been subject to the most consistently stated contest are:
? Whether Theresa can take nutrition and hydration orally
? Whether Theresa's neurological condition:
o Includes cognitive functioning and/or capability
o Provides a basis, given good science and medicine, to be improved to
permit her to interact more with her environment
All parties agree that the legal process to date, while following statutory guidelines and
rules of evidence, has not resulted in a conclusion that is, in the eyes of each of the
parties, in Theresa's best interests;
to wit: those advocating for her rights to privacy and to die according to her
wishes have not been successful in reaching closure; and
those advocating for her right to live, regardless of the nature of her illness,
injury, disability or condition, have not been successful in excluding termination
of life support as an immediate possibility.
In the informed opinion of the GAL, following the directive guidelines of the Court, no
"feasible and valuable" recommendations can be made that will be in Theresa's best
interests and best wishes until and unless there are changes in the status quo among the
parties. These changes are best approached incrementally.
In order to create a common ground among the parties, essential to feasibly and valuably
addressing the best interests of Theresa, the parties agree in principle as follows:
1. The GAL is accepted and trusted by all the parties as having clean hands and
acting exclusively in the interests of Theresa.
2. The GAL's judgment regarding the best interests of Theresa and his ability to
objectively, fairly, scientifically and caringly represent these interests is accepted
by all the parties.
3. The GAL will select competent, neutral, clinical specialists to make a formal
determination about the feasibility and value of swallowing tests and therapy for
Theresa. The specialists' identities will be kept confidential from the public. The
specialists' determination will have value to the process of gaining a common and
agreed-upon understanding among the parties.
4. The GAL will select competent, neutral, clinical specialists to conduct appropriate
examinations and tests to make a formal determination about neurological
capacity and prognosis. The specialists' identities will be kept confidential from
the public. The specialists' determination will have value to the process of gaining
a common and agreed-upon understanding among the parties.
5. The GAL should be permitted and authorized to move forward with a plan,
designed to gain the data regarding swallowing tests/therapy and neurological
capacity in a manner consistent with items 3 and 4, above, with and through the
advice and input of the parties' counsels and the Court.
6. The parties agree in principle to establish in advance, parameters for their
respective actions based upon the outcomes of the examinations and tests. These
parameters will be developed, through the auspices of the GAL, within 10 days of
the presentation of this report to the Governor, and said parameters, agreed upon
by the parties, shall serve as the predicate for proceeding with the initiation of the
testing and examination.
7. The successful recruitment and deployment of the clinical experts to perform the
exams will be under the direction, supervision and discretion of the GAL, with
advisement proffered to the attorneys for each of the parties.
8. Barring unforeseen events, the recruitment, deployment and reporting to the
parties on the results of the tests will occur within 45 days of the specification
referenced above in item 6 regarding the parameters.
9. In fairness, and because of the significant public policy issues involved, the costs
associated with the recruitment and deployment of experts to perform the
examinations and tests should be born by the State.
10. The parties respectfully request that the Court accept and honor this
understanding in the interests of justice and with the expectation of achieving a
feasible and valuable solution in a complex and challenging matter that has
acquired a high level of public policy significance.
In the event the GAL is unable to achieve agreement on a matter, the issue will either be
respectfully set aside, with the acquiescence of the parties, or, if it is deemed to be of
such a critical and vital nature, it may serve to stall or terminate the good faith process.
At that juncture, the GAL will report on the failure of the process and the reason for the
Within ten days of the presentation of this report, the GAL will provide the Governor and
the Court with a written status update along with the details of an implementation plan.
But that is not enough. This evidence is compromised by the circumstances and the enmity between the
parties. Until recently, while both Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers agreed that Theresa was in a
persistent vegetative state, they could not agree as to the matter of discontinuation of life support.
Recently, the Schindlers have adopted what appears to be a position that Theresa is not in a persistent
vegetative state, and/or that they do not support the fact that such a medical state exists at all. Yet
throughout the nearly ten years of litigation, it is the issue of her ability to swallow, ingest food and
hydration, and the findings regarding any residual cognitive ability that have marked the medical substance
of this dispute.
Of the Schindlers, there has evolved the unfortunate and inaccurate perception that they will "keep Theresa
alive at any and all costs" even if that were to result in her limbs being amputated and additional, complex
surgical and medical interventions being performed, and even if Theresa had expressly indicated her
intention not to be so maintained. During the course of the GAL's investigation, the Schindlers allow that
this is not accurate, and that they never intended to imply a gruesome maintenance of Theresa at all costs.
Of Michael Schiavo, there is the incorrect perception that he has refused to relinquish his guardianship
because of financial interests, and more recently, because of allegations that he actually abused Theresa and
seeks to hide this. There is no evidence in the record to substantiate any of these perceptions or allegations.
Until and unless there is objective, fresh, mutually agreed upon closure regarding measurable and well
accepted scientific bases for deducing Theresa's clinical state, Theresa will not be done justice. There must
be at least a degree of trust with respect to a process that the factions competing for Theresa's best interest
can agree. To benefit Theresa, and in the overall interests of justice, good science, and public policy, there
needs to be a fresh, clean-hands start.
The Schindlers and the Schiavos are normal, decent people who have found themselves within the
construct of an exceptional circumstance which none of them, indeed, few reasonable and normal people
could have imagined. As a consequence of this circumstance, extensive urban mythology has created toxic
clouds, causing the parties and others to behave in ways that may not, in the order of things, serve the best
interests of the ward.
In Re: Theresa Marie Schiavo, Incapacitated
Report to Gov. Jeb Bush and the 6th Florida Judicial Circuit 1 December 2003
Jay Wolfson, as Guardian Ad Litem to Theresa Marie Schiavo Page 1 of 38