Judge appoints guardian for brain-damaged woman

Saturday, November 1, 2003

TAMPA, Fla. -- A judge appointed a University of South Florida professor on Friday to independently investigate the case of a severely brain-damaged woman at the center of a right-to-die battle.

Jay Wolfson, an expert on health-care financing, will report to Gov. Jeb Bush and recommend whether the stay the governor enacted to keep Terri Schiavo alive should be allowed to remain.

Schiavo suffered severe brain damage when her heart stopped due to a chemical imbalance and has been in a persistent vegetative state for more than a decade.

Doctors have said there is no hope for her recovery.

Her husband, Michael Schiavo, has fought to have her feeding tube removed, saying his wife did not want to be kept alive artificially.

Terri Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, dispute that claim and have fought to keep their daughter alive, saying they believe she could be rehabilitated.

Terri Schiavo's feeding tube was removed for six days in October before the Florida Legislature and Gov. Jeb Bush enacted a special law to have it reinserted. The law also required a guardian to be appointed.

George Felos, the attorney for Michael Schiavo, and the American Civil Liberties Union filed briefs this week challenging the constitutionality of the governor's action. The state is expected to respond on Monday.

The judge said that if the law is found to be unconstitutional, Wolfson is to cease his work.

The Schindlers had objected to Wolfson's appointment, claiming comments he made to a television station indicated he was biased against the newly enacted law. The judge said he found no evidence of bias.

Wolfson did not return calls seeking comment.

The judge ordered Wolfson to report to the governor in 30 days, but said the deadline could be extended if needed.

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