TERRI SCHIAVO: DCF
30 allegations of abuse, neglect and exploitation
For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.
The Terri Schiavo Case This Just In...........
The state tried to keep secret the source of allegations it wants to investigate.
By WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE and WES ALLISON
Published March 4, 2005
CLEARWATER - State officials want to investigate 30 allegations of abuse, neglect and exploitation in the care of Terri Schiavo, including experimental procedures allegedly performed improperly.
The Florida Department of Children and Families' petition seeking to intervene in Schiavo's case said the agency received a 34-page document outlining the allegations on Feb. 18 via an abuse hotline by an unidentified person or group.
On Thursday, despite efforts by DCF to keep the document sealed, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge George Greer ordered it to be released today. The St. Petersburg Times obtained a copy of the document Thursday.
It does not identify who is alleged to have abused Schiavo or provide any information indicating the credibility of the allegations.
DCF also provided no detailed description of the alleged abuse, which appear to mirror some allegations previously raised against Michael Schiavo, Terri Schiavo's husband and guardian. His attorney could not be reached Thursday for comment on the document.
But George Felos has said that previous allegations of abuse against his client were unsubstantiated and that several law enforcement agencies, from the State Attorney's Office to the Sheriff's Office, have refused to investigate.
Attorneys for Schiavo's parents have encouraged a DCF investigation, though they have said they do not know who raised the latest concerns.
Greer has scheduled a hearing Wednesday to consider the DCF's request to intervene in the case so it can investigate. Greer has set the removal of Schiavo's feeding tube for March 18 at 1 p.m.
DCF's filing, made before Greer set a date for the feeding tube's removal, also had sought a stay to investigate the claims. The DCF has declined to comment about its investigation.
Among general accusations outlined in the filing:
A failure to file a proper guardianship plan.
Experimental procedures performed improperly. No detail is provided.
Issues involving a lack of visitation.
Lack of manipulation of Schiavo's arms.
Denial of access to legal counsel for Schiavo, which the DCF said has never previously been investigated.
Some of the allegations are unclear. For example, the DCF describes a "failure to educate using certain therapies" and an "investigation of rehabilitation entitlements in light of technologies available."
The DCF said it had not seen the allegations before.
"Termination of the life of Theresa Schiavo would hamper the investigation into abuse, neglect and/or exploitation allegations, many of which have previously gone on uninvestigated" by the DCF, the agency's petition said.
Greer ordered the document released after a petition from lawyers for the Tampa Tribune and WFLA-CH. 8. The DCF argued the document, by law, is confidential.
Also Thursday, Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Palm Bay, said he plans to file a bill next week that would give Terri Schiavo, and others in her position, her own legal representation and other protections.
Weldon, a physician, is a social conservative who has been vocal on a variety of life issues. He could not be reached for comment Thursday, and his spokeswoman said he would have no comment until his bill is filed.
Congress is in recess until Tuesday.
Weldon did not yet have a sponsor in the Senate, though one should be relatively easy to find. It's unclear how much chance the bill would have for passing Congress.
Attorney David Gibbs III, representing Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, hailed the effort.
"It would extend the constitutional protections of due process afforded death row inmates . . . to people in Terri's condition," Gibbs said.
George Felos, an attorney representing Schiavo's husband, declined to comment on the legislation because he had not seen it. But Felos, reached before the DCF document was obtained, said no bill can retroactively undo a court judgment.
"That's the foundation of the separation of powers," he said.
[Last modified March 4, 2005, 00:55:04]
Bernie McCABE (R)
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