In The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare told us “The quality of mercy is not strained; It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed – It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes.”
There has been no mercy displayed by the Florida courts for the blood family of a brain-damaged woman who is dying during this Easter Weekend. One wonders why the courts have snubbed the Schindler family’s every petition. I believe that these rebuffs from the judiciary may not really be about saving the life of a handicapped woman. The following happenings have me believing that the courts are resentful of what they consider to be intrusion from the legislative branches of the government. Can it be that Terri will die, because the judiciary fears a power grab by the people’s representatives, the Florida and U.S. legislatures?
The Schindlers and their son-in-law, Michael Schiavo, were on good terms and in accord with Terri’s medical treatment until 1993 when they had a falling-out, after a large sum of money was awarded in a medical mal-practice suit. As a consequence, the court appointed an attorney, Richard Pearse Jr., as guardian ad litem for Terri Schiavo, from the middle of 1998 to 1999. His job was to represent the young woman’s interests in one of the hearings where her husband sought to remove her feeding tube and to recommend a solution in the case. Mr. Pearse investigated her case, interviewed her relatives, and read the medical records. Afterwards, Mr. Pearse filed a report recommending that Terri Schiavo be kept on the feeding tube. He also questioned Michael Schiavo’s credibility, considering that therapy for his wife stopped after he received the money. The attorney for Mr. Schiavo, George Felos, said: “that Pearse is biased and should not have been appointed because he personally is opposed to feeding tubes being removed.” Pearse made his recommendations in January 2000, and Pinellas Circuit Judge George Greer drew other conclusions. Judge Greer ruled Terri Schiavo to be in a persistent vegetative state and that her feeding tube could be removed. Five years later, Mr. Pearse has reversed his views and believes that the feeding tube should now be removed. Why? According to the Saint Petersburg Times, one reason he gives is that Governor Bush and the Florida Legislature were wrong to interfere with the courts by pushing through Terri’s Law. Mr. Pearse called the law stunningly bad policy and the law was later declared unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court.
Paul O’Donnell, a Franciscan monk and friend of the Schindlers, attended the court hearing yesterday when the Schindlers petitioned for Terri’s life. Father O’Donnell described the presiding Judge James Whittemore as becoming “testy” whenever the legislation for a review of Terri’s case from the U.S. Congress was referenced.