Judge Who Ordered Euthanasia of Terri Schiavo Retires

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 3, 2011   |   1:41PM   |   Washington, DC

The Florida state judge who allowed the former husband of disabled patient Terri Schiavo to take her life by depriving her of food and water, has retired from the bench.

Schiavo’s case became an international debate over the treatment of people who are medically incapacitated and it saw Circuit Court Judge George Greer issue repeated orders allowing Terri’s former husband Michael Schaivo to take her life.

The orders came despite evidence from her family and some physicians and experts that Terri would respond to stimulus and had the possibility of rehabilitation.

Circuit Court Judge George Greer said in an interview with the St. Petersburg Times that he feared for his life because of the outpouring of opposition to his decision allowing Michael  to disconnect the feeding tube providing her with food and water.

“I wore a bulletproof vest for months,” Greer said. About defending himself in public, he said, “I knew I couldn’t. Was it hard? Yeah, it was hard, but I knew I couldn’t.”

“Judges are not supposed to get down in the pits and duke it out,” Greer added in the newspaper interview. “We’re not only supposed to be impartial, we’re supposed to give the appearance of impartiality.”

“It was absolute hell, it truly was — we were captive in our own home,” his wife Patricia added, saying the couple once received a delivery of dead flowers. “I opened the card and it said: ‘no food, no water.'”

On four occasions Greer refusedto take himself off the case despite links to attorneys for Michael Schiavo. He faced a Congress, state legislature, and president in George W. Bush who did everything in their power to assist Terri’s family in their bid to provide her with appropriate medical treatment, rehabilitative care and to prevent what ultimately became a 13-day starvation and dehydration death.

Bobby Schindler, Terri Schiavo’s brother, released a statement about Greer’s retirement.

“There are many in the legal community that will be honoring Judge Greer for his many years of judicial service,” he said. [related]

“However, for our family, and the millions of people that supported Terri worldwide, Judge Greer’s decision to deliberately starve and dehydrate her to death –based largely on hearsay testimony — is anything but honorable.  Terri was denied the most basic of rights –right that our laws are intended to protect: life and liberty,” he said.

“Indeed, it is because of Judge Greer that our family formed the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network, an organization that now fights for those brain-injured persons like Terri, so their individual rights can be protected from similar judges, who see no value in the lives of those who need only our love and compassion,” he added.

After the decision, Greer traveled the lecture circuit, which upset Terri’s family further. He spoke at  a national summit concerning jury trials, even though he unilaterally allowed the taking of Terri’s life without a jury deliberation.

Greer was also a featured speaker at Loyola Law School Los Angeles, where he instructed members of the mainstream media in how to report on significant legal stories like the battle over Terri’s life. Greer also previously came under fire for speaking engagements at a bioethics forum at the University of Pennsylvania and a local Bar Association event in Florida.

Terri reportedly said before she died that she wanted to live.