Home | Issues | Perspective | Audio | Guests | Images | Live Chat | Links | Search | About | Contact

We've tried to be discriminating on the articles posted here so our visitors are not forced to search through dozens (or hundreds) to get the meat of this situation -- Terri's struggle, and the growing right-to-kill movement.

This one is definitely worth your read.

A good overview and behind-the-scenes peek at the greed, corruption, lies, collusion with public officials, and criminal acts by the end-of-life Hospices and in particular the company -- and its employees -- that owns the Hospice where Terri has been near death many times.  

Apparently the Robert Wood Foundation figures heavily in the right-to-kill movement. Being a tax-exempt foundation, functioning at the expense of 'taxpayers', that would lead to the conclusion that, once again, we end up paying for our own demise.

Thank your for your efforts and support of Terri's RIGHT TO LIVE!  Ultimately, the life you're saving could very well be your own. . . or that of a loved one. -- Jackie -- November 7th, 2003 

The Terri Schiavo Case. . .

Using A Tragedy To Push "Mercy Killing"



One week after Florida Gov. Jeb Bush released Terri Schiavo from a court-imposed death sentence and had her moved from a hospice to a hospital and ordered her feeding regimen continued, the center of attention began shifting. It is moving from Terri and her estranged husband to the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast.

While Terri's parents struggle to have their daughter receive medical attention after years of neglect, it appears to some advocates for the disabled that her lack of treatment by hospice officials and staff was intended to create the type of media sensation and legislative, judicial, and executive confrontation it did - all to advance the "right to die."

Item: Hospice administrator Mary Labyak, paid a handsome $200,000 per year to run one of the largest hospices in the United States, is a board member of the Partnership for Caring, a direct descendant of the Euthanasia Society of America, founded in New York in 1938 to promote "mercy killing." The Partnership for Caring is associated with another organization, "Choice in Dying," which also traces its roots to the Euthanasia Society of America.

Item: Attorney George Felos served as chairman of the board of directors of Hospice of the Florida Suncoast until he took on Terri's husband, Mark Schiavo, as a client. Since doing so, Felos, a nationally recognized expert in right-to-die cases, and a founding member of the National Legal Advisors Committee on Choice in Dying, has earned more than $350,000 for representing Mark Schiavo.

Stephen Drake, of the Chicago based Not Dead Yet advocacy group for disabled persons, charges that Hospice of the Florida Suncoast and the Partnership for Caring are "regional 'Rallying Points' of Last Acts, a mega-funded project which coordinates 'end of life' advocacy around the United States," and are recipients of "some of the estimated $150 million the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has invested in 'end of life' concerns."

"Earlier this summer," wrote Drake, "Not Dead Yet and over 40 disability organizations locked horns with Partnership for Caring, Last Acts, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. They charged that the coalition was actively conflating 'terminal illness' with 'disability' and promoting statutes that weaken legal protections for people like Terri Schiavo."

Item: Judge George Greer, the Pinellas Circuit Court judge who has consistently ruled against medical treatment for Terri Schiavo and who ordered her feeding tube removed October 16, was a longtime colleague of County Commissioner Barbara Sheen Todd. Todd is on the board of Hospice of the Florida Suncoast.

Pending Lawsuits

Currently, there are at least four pending lawsuits against the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast. The first, filed in February 2003, is a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of those who donated to the nonprofit institution or those patients whose confidentiality was breached.

The second lawsuit, alleging breach of confidentiality of patients and their families, is against Suncoast Solutions, a for-profit software firm set up by Hospice of the Florida Suncoast.

According to a May 2 report by The St. Petersburg Times' William, R. Levesque, the lawsuit claims Hospice of the Florida Suncoast "violated state law by intentionally releasing medical and personal information about thousands of patients and their next of kin"

The lawsuit was filed in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court by Jonathan Alpert, the attorney who filed a suit in February accusing the nonprofit hospice of diverting charitable donations to its for-profit software company. The new suit claims the hospice released the patient information over the last several years as its for-profit subsidiary, Hospice Systems Inc., marketed a software product to other hospices around the nation."

The third lawsuit is a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by an employee against the hospice's former human relations director, and was also filed in May.

Other controversies surrounding Hospice of the Florida Suncoast include a lawsuit alleging a hospice employee purchased a donated house at a below-market price.

The St. Petersburg Times reported the illegal real estate transaction on March 1, 2003 and a follow-up report, on March 8, said the purchaser took $3,000 of donations to the nonprofit hospice to repair the roof.

The St. Petersburg Times has also reported that CEO Labyak admitted diverting over $7 million, including Medicaid funds, into the for-profit Suncoast Systems.

Another controversy involves two employees of Suncoast Solutions, hired by Labyak.

One employee, hired to run the hospice's finance department, is Susan Wynn.

The St. Petersburg Times reported June 18, 2003 that Wynn was convicted in 1996 of stealing $370,000 from the Chatham Area Transit (CAT) Authority, and in her new post at Hospice had access to every employee's personal information, Social Security numbers, addresses, and date of birth.

According to a report by Hjerl K. Fuller in The Savannah News Press (February 24, 1996), Wynn pleaded guilty in federal court to stealing $370,000 from the CAT while she was the corporation's financial director, and used the money to purchase a diamond ring, a dining room and living room set, political advertisements in her political race for county tax commissioner, for a downpayment on a home, a downpayment on another property, and the purchase of a car.

She was ultimately sentenced to five years in prison, and upon her release was hired by Hospice of the Florida Suncoast.

At the time Wynn was hired, Hospice of the Florida Suncoast was charged by the federal government of overbilling Medicare more than $14 million.

Another hire was Teresa Craig, a certified public accountant who had been working for a hospice in Kansas when it began encountering severe financial problems.

According to Ron Panzer, who runs a web site called hospicepatients.org, which lists the lawsuits and other matters involving Hospice of the Florida Suncoast, Craig was hired to run the for-profit Suncoast Solutions just at the time employees in Kansas had their salaries frozen due to the nonprofit's "strained" finances.

"However," charged Panzer, once Craig was hired at Suncoast Systems, "money really began flowing over at the for-profit Suncoast Solutions where Teresa became CEO.

"Programmers there live high on the hog, with so much money that their girlfriends or wives either stay home and don't work or are seriously considering it. One director of programming is apparently being paid nearly $240,000 per year! That's a lot of dough! Hope the donors who donated to the hospice for hospice services see it as 'worth it'! They donated to the hospice for services to patients, but over $7.6 million has been flowing from the nonprofit to the for-profit, as fast as a flash flood in springtime.
"And although Labyak said that the money was a 'loan' to the for-profit, we've been waiting to see even one shred of evidence that there is a loan recorded on the books of Suncoast Solutions to be repaid to the hospice and/or the hospice foundation.
"And sales people over there, oh my! They had to import a salesman and pay him a base salary of $80,000 plus commissions just to sell the software. Guess they don't have any salesmen in Florida? Or, just not the right ones; or just not the ones with the right connections! . . .
"Sorry, original hospice workers: profit is only for those who play by Teresa Craig's rules. Fair salary increases (to match the rate of inflation, for example) are not regularly given over at the hospice.
"And profitability? Is the software company profitable? There doesn't seem to be any profit being made by the software company. The company has been living off the money skimmed from the foundation or the hospice itself, not from revenue derived by the software company. . . .
"However, Suncoast Solutions' own internal work group (Next Generation group) made up of Suncoast Solutions clients (the hospices that paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for the product) has already answered the questions for us. They say:
"'Too many program bugs for this to be viewed as a truly marketable product. At best, the product is in 'late beta stage'; and, 'Lack of system stability - frequent system lock-ups'; and 'Client set-up procedure' is in-cohesive & clumsy.'"

(See Next Generation notes shown in the exhibits to the 2nd class action lawsuit filed against Teresa Craig's creation: 1 and 2.)

"If bringing Teresa Craig, on board at the hospice was a good idea, I'd wonder what a bad idea would look like. And what about having to pay $70,000 (plus or minus a few thousand) just to fly her back and forth to Kansas almost every weekend for the past years she's been profiting at Suncoast Solutions? Do the donors to the hospice know that their donations have paid for a few hundred plane tickets to fly this lady. . . back and forth to Kansas? Do they know how much she's getting paid? Do they know how much property Teresa Craig owns up in Kansas or Florida? Is Teresa Craig dedicated to serving the community?

Not Dead Yet

In an amicus curiae brief appealing Judge Greer's decision to allow Terri Schiavo to starve to death, Not Dead Yet - representing 12 other anti-euthanasia groups, including such well-known groups as the American Association for People With Disabilities, the Center for Self-Determination, the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, the Hospice Patients' Alliance, the World Association of Persons With Disabilities - argued:

"The standards upon which Ms. Schiavo's life or death turn may, if defined broadly enough, also be applied to thousands of people with disabilities who, like Ms. Schiavo, cannot articulate their own views and must thus rely on third parties as substitute decision-makers. The need for constitutional limits on the powers of such decision makers is nowhere more clear than on a question as fundamental as life or death, because the consequences of abuse or misjudgment are both ultimate and irreversible.
"For this reason, neither a court nor any third party may base a decision on their own view of the affected person's 'quality of life.' Only the person's own desires may drive this determination.
"This desire cannot be ascertained in isolation. It is intertwined with the affected person's medical diagnosis and prognosis. A person who decides to withhold treatment does so only after he or she has been informed of the medical consequences of the decision and all possible alternatives.

"Likewise, if a person may have or regain cognitive function, a court or third party may not determine a person would want to die simply on the assumption the person's life is not worth living. Even if reasonable minds disagree on any of these issues, any doubt or uncertainty counsels against death. Only then does the court remain true to the constitutional 'clear and convincing' standard of proof required under these extraordinary circumstances.

"The trial court below failed to adhere to these standards. . .Despite hearing evidence from doctors with 'very impressive credentials' that Ms. Schiavo was not in a persistent vegetative state, and despite finding that she exhibited signs of cognition and thought, the court authorized her death. This was not - nor did it purport to be - a finding based on 'clear and convincing' evidence of Ms. Schiavo's desires. In such cases, a court may not substitute its own judgment but must find that Ms. Schiavo, after examining the conflicting medical evidence, would have had nothing less than a 'firm and settled commitment' to die. The lower court here made no such determination.
"The reasons behind the disability community's solidarity with Ms. Schiavo may not be immediately apparent. Yet a close examination of the issues shows that Ms. Schiavo's fate is intertwined with that of many people with disabilities who must rely on surrogates.
"If the legal standard of proof in cases involving termination of life support is watered down to the point where Ms. Schiavo's 'quality of life' - as determined by others - justifies her death, then one cannot distinguish Ms. Schiavo from anyone else who is 'incompetent,' including thousands who cannot speak due to developmental or physical disabilities.
"It is naive to believe such attitudes would not be used to justify the death of people with severe disabilities if the opportunity arose. For example, prominent ethicists such as Peter Singer of Princeton University have sanctioned the killing of people with severe disabilities based on a belief that they will not lead a 'good' life and will burden their parents and society.
"These attitudes, which have a long and ugly history as justification for the sterilization or elimination of people with disabilities, may be nothing more than privately held prejudices. Yet they don the cloak of public sanction every time a court lowers the constitutional bar on substituted judgments and consequently broadens the category of people with disabilities whose lives may be terminated."

The brief argued that Judge Greer's decision was wrong for two basic reasons: It ignored medical evidence that supported keeping Terri alive, and disregarded "applicable legal standards" when it determined Terri was in a "persistent vegetative state."

"The trial court's new standard," said the brief, "would lead to inconsistent and overly broad determinations of what is or is not a 'permanent vegetative state' and potentially subject thousands of people with severe cognitive disabilities to third-party enforcement of their 'right' to die.

"Finally, the denial of medical care based on cognitive disability constitutes illegal differential treatment under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Just as a person does not lose the right to refuse treatment by virtue of incompetence, so too does he or she not lose the right to medical treatment equal to other similarly-situated persons without cognitive disabilities. Absent strong constitutional justification (e.g., clear and convincing evidence the person would want to withhold treatment), any system that denies needed medical treatment to people with cognitive disabilities, because they have cognitive disabilities, violates the ADA."

The brief also stated that "lethal and medical discrimination against people with severe disabilities and functional limitations is an integral and pervasive part of America's 20th -century history," including active euthanasia of non-disabled persons; the killing of defective children; involuntary sterilization of persons with developmental or physical disablities; denial of medical treatment to persons with disabilities, and withdrawal of medical treatment to disabled persons.

In an October 29 editorial for The Los Angeles Times, Not Dead Yet's top research analyst, Stephen Drake, explained why this country's disabled people are watching the Terri Schiavo case with such apprehension.

Drake, who was born brain-damaged due to the misuse of forceps and was considered a "vegetable" by doctors, worked his way to recovery. He commented:

"Thousands of people with disabilities across the United States are watching the case anxiously. In fact, 12 national disability groups have filed 'friend of the court' briefs in opposition to the efforts to starve Schiavo. Obviously, we want to know how all those commenting in this case feel about the lives of people with Down syndrome, autism, Alzheimer's, and other disabiliies. Are they next for death through starvation? It's not so farfetched."


Home | Issues | Perspective | Audio | Guests | Images | Live Chat | Links | Search | About | Contact