Governor Jeb Bush Under Fire From Lawmakers for Helping Terri Schiavo Nurse

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 21, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Governor Jeb Bush Under Fire From Lawmakers for Helping Terri Schiavo Nurse Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 21, 2006

Tallahassee, FL ( — Governor Jeb Bush is coming under fire from some state lawmakers for siding with a nurse who cared for Terri Schiavo during the mid 1990s and helped expose her former husband’s mistreatment of her. Last week, the Florida Department of Health urged the state nursing board to not revoke the license of a nurse who talked about Michael’s mistreating Terri in an interview.

Carla Sauer-Iyer spoke about things that happened to Terri in an interview she gave CNN last March. Some of the material she discussed was in an affidavit she filed in the Terri legal battle.

After getting a complaint from someone in another state who supported Michael’s right to take Terri’s life, the nursing board proposed a one-sided deal by which Sauer-Iyer would relinquish her nursing license and pay nearly $1,700 in administrative fees.

But Bush said the information she discussed in the interview was already public record in the ongoing lawsuit between Michael and Terry’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler.

"The governor feels the actions taken against Sauer-Iyer are not justified and hopes that the complaint will be reconsidered and dismissed," Bush spokesman Russell Schweiss wrote in an e-mail to the St. Petersburg Times. "She did not disclose any information which was not already public."

But, three members of the Senate Care Committee question Bush’s involvement and the Florida Department of Health’s request for the nursing board to drop the complaints.

"I guess there’s some pressure obviously placed on them to change their minds, and I don’t find that appropriate," state Sen. Nan Rich, a Democrat, told the St. Petersburg Times newspaper. "Let’s not let politics determine the outcome of administrative complaints."

Sen. Burt Saunders, a Republican agreed, and said Sauer-Iyer shouldn’t have discussed the debate over Terri Schiavo on television.

"The reason for her disclosing information is not that relevant," Saunders said. "If she did, that’s an offense that needs to be looked at."

A Bush spokesman told the Times in response that it’s routine for the governor to talk about controversial cases with the state health department.

The Board of Nursing is slated to hold a hearing on the matter on August 17, requested by Sauer-Iyer’s attorney who says she had a free speech right to discuss the case.

Sauer-Iyer, who is employed at the Palm Garden of Largo Convalescent Center, filed an affidavit for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in his attempts to help Terri’s parents prevent Terri’s death.

Sauer-Iyer said that, after one visit by Michael in Terri’s room for 20 minutes with the door shut, Sauer-Iyer found Terri lethargic and "crying hysterically." She checked Terri’s blood sugar levels and they were barely showing any reading on the glucometer, she indicated. She also saw a vial of "insulin concealed in the trash bin."

She indicated there were needle marks underneath Terri’s breast, under her arms, and in her groin area.

Iyer explained in an August 2003 affidavit for Terri’s parents Bob and Mary Schindler that that Michael would complain when staff would take care of her or feed her. He would also refused to provide her with any rehabilitative treatment.

"[T]hat’s therapy — take that washcloth out," he would tell Iyer.

She said, "it was clear to me at Palm Garden that all decisions regarding Terri Schiavo were made by Michael Schiavo with no allowances made for any discussion, debate or normal professional judgment. My initial training there consists solely of the instruction, ‘Do what Michael Schiavo tells you or you will be terminated.’"

"Very few of us were allowed to see Terri," she said. However, she saw enough of Terri to know that she was not in a persistent vegetative state.

Iyer said one of the problems in the long legal battle between Michael and the Schindlers had been courts not fully investigating every complaint and concern.

"That’s been the problem the whole time — [presiding] Judge Greer not looking into all the evidence," Iyer said last year.

Iyer said she has never been interviewed by any of the judges considering Terri’s case.

"None of us were able to testify," she said, referring to fellow nurses Heidi Law and Carolyn Johnson, who both filed affidavits to confirm Iyer’s contention that Michael withheld medical care and rehabilitative treatment and may have tried to take his wife’s life.

In the affidavit, Iyer contends Michael repeatedly asked hospice staff when Terri was going to die, with demeaning questions such as "When is that bitch gonna die?"

Iyer was ultimately fired from her position after filing a police report regarding the insulin incident. She cared for Terri from April 1995 through August 1996.

Related web sites:
Iyer’s affidavit
Terri Schiavo’s parents –