March 18, 2005
PINELLAS PARK, Fla. -- As a deadline loomed, a subpoena was delivered Friday at the hospice where severely brain-damaged Terri Schiavo lives, and an attorney for her parents said they hoped an invitation from U.S. Senate Republicans would buy them more time.
The Senate Health Committee has requested that Terri Schiavo and her husband, Michael, appear at an official committee hearing on March 28. Earlier Friday, a House committee was issuing congressional subpoenas to stop doctors from disconnecting the tube.
The hospice where Terri Schiavo lives received a subpoena late Friday morning, spokeswoman Louise Cleary said. Officials declined to say who was subpoenaed and did not disclose their next steps.
"At this time, we are monitoring developments and consulting with legal and ethical advisers to determine what to do," she said.
Michael Schiavo has waged a yearslong court battle with his parents-in-law, contending his 41-year-old wife, who has been in a persistent vegetative state since 1990, would not want to live that way.
Courts have cleared the way for him to remove her feeding tube as early as 1 p.m. Friday. The tube has been removed twice in the past and then reinserted as the battle continued.
"It is a contempt of Congress to prevent or discourage someone from following the subpoena that's been issued," David Gibbs, the attorney for her parents, said. "What the U.S. Congress is saying is, `We want to see Terri Schiavo.'"
"The family is prayerfully excited about their daughter going before the United States Congress for the whole world to see how alive she is."
He said that despite her brain damage, she would be able to travel. A statement from the office of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., on Friday said the purpose of the hearing was to review health care policies and practices relevant to the care of non-ambulatory people.
Frist's statement noted that it is a federal crime to harm or obstruct a person called to testify before Congress.
Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Florida office, said his group's attorneys were working with Michael Schiavo's attorneys to determine if the subpoenas would block the scheduled removal of the tube.
"This is clearly an effort to circumvent a lawful court order by a state judge," Simon said. "I am not sure how a subpoena, which is ordinarily done to produce records or somebody to testify, can essentially have the effect of an injunction overriding the orders of a court."
Terri Schiavo's father, Bob Schindler, went into the Woodside Hospice in Pinellas Park at about 9:30 a.m. to visit his daughter. Outside, about three dozen people prayed and wept.
"What can wash away our sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus," they sang. Messages on protest signs included "Impeach Greer.com," a reference to a judge in the case, and "Execution - It's Not Just for the Guilty Anymore."
In Tallahassee, the Florida House on Thursday passed a bill 78-37 to block the withholding of food and water from patients in a persistent vegetative state who did not leave specific instructions regarding their care. But hours later, the Senate defeated a different measure 21-16. The sponsor of another state Senate didn't bring it for a vote because it didn't have enough support.
Gibbs also has said he would ask a federal judge in Tampa to block the removal and review the actions of state courts. Such habeas corpus appeals seek to require the government to justify its actions.