Terri Schiavo Nurse Keeps License, Complaint About Interview Dismissed
by Steven Ertelt
August 18, 2006
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — A nurse who formerly cared for Terri Schiavo in the 1990s will get to keep her nursing license. Carla Sauer-Iyer exposed some of the various ways Terri’s former husband Michael mistreated her or refused to provide the disabled woman with medical care or rehabilitative treatment.
Sauer-Iyer was in danger of losing her license after a supporter of Michael from Massachusetts filed a complaint with the Florida nursing board that alleges she violated nursing standards by talking about details of the lawsuit between Terri’s parents and Michael Schiavo.
Carla Sauer-Iyer spoke about Terri’s mistreatment in an interview she gave CNN in the days leading up to Terri’s euthanasia death. Some of the material she discussed was in an affidavit she filed in the Terri legal battle supporting Terri’s parents.
But a Florida Board of Nursing panel dismissed the complaint Thursday after an attorney from the Florida Department of Health told it that rules requiring nurses to not disclose patient information also required them to report neglect and abuse.
"The obligation to protect the patient must prevail," Assistant General Counsel Kathryn Price told the panel, according to The Ledger newspaper.
Price indicated the interview was Sauer-Iyer’s last ditch effort to protect Terri and save her from a painful starvation and dehydration euthanasia death at the hand of her former husband, who was living with another woman at the time.
"It appears (Sauer-Iyer) made a public position solely with the intent to protect the patient," Price said, according to The Ledger.
Sauer-Iyer told the Florida newspaper, in response to the panel dismissing the complaint against her, "Justice was served today."
"As a nurse, a leader in the community, you have to stand up and advocate for patients’ rights regardless of the possible risk," Sauer-Iyer said. "I would do it all over again."
Francis Manion of the American Center for Law & Justice, who represented Sauer-Iyer, told the newspaper that details of the case were already public knowledge and he said the nurse didn’t violate any patient confidentiality.
"The whole world was talking about this woman’s medical condition long before Carla gave her interview," Manion said. "Once someone’s medical condition is placed at issue in litigation, there is no privilege of confidentiality."
After receiving the complaint, 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.
Sauer-Iyer defends talking about Michael’s mistreating Terri in the interview with CNN.
"I was trying to come forward and advocate for a patient," she told The Ledger newspaper. "I was protecting Terri. It was morally and ethically the right thing to do."
Governor Jeb Bush sided with Sauer-Iyer in the case and told the nursing board he thinks it should reverse its decision.
"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."
Sauer-Iyer, who is employed at a Lakeland, Florida nursing 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.