Fla. Agency Probing Schiavo Abuse Charges

The state's social services agency is seeking to delay the removal of a brain-damaged woman's feeding tube so it can investigate about 30 new allegations of "abuse, neglect or exploitation" by her husband, according to a court document made public Friday.

In a petition filed last week, the Department of Children & Families said it received the abuse and neglect allegations through its anonymous abuse hot line. It sought a 60-day stay blocking the removal of 41-year-old Terri Schiavo's (search) feeding tube, now scheduled for March 18.

Schiavo's husband, Michael Schiavo (search), has been engaged in a bitter legal fight to remove the tube, arguing that she did not want to be kept alive artificially. Her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, have fought to keep her alive, contending that she had no such end-of-life wishes and is not in a vegetative state as court-ordered doctors have determined.

The department said the abuse and neglect accusations include failure to investigate experimental medical procedures; denial of legal counsel; lack of communication and visitation; and lack of manipulation of Terri Schiavo's arms, "causing severe contractures."

"The allegations ... go to the heart of whether abuse, neglect and/or exploitation has been perpetrated by (Michael Schiavo)," DCF adult investigations supervisor Michael Will wrote in the petition.

Judge George Greer is expected to hear arguments next week on whether DCF should be allowed to intervene.

Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, didn't immediately return a call seeking comment Friday but has said that DCF's last-minute attempt to intervene "reeks of political arm-twisting." He said previous investigations of abuse allegations against his client have failed to turn up any evidence. Michael Schiavo denies ever harming his wife.

Gov. Jeb Bush has said he is searching for a way to keep Terri Schiavo alive. DCF's attempt to intervene came as Greer moved to set a new date for removal of the feeding tube.

Bush got involved in the case in October 2003, pushing a law through the Legislature authorizing him to resume Terri's Schiavo's feedings six days after the court stopped them. The law subsequently was ruled unconstitutional.

Terri Schiavo suffered severe brain damage 15 years ago when her heart stopped beating for several minutes because of a chemical imbalance possibly brought on by an eating disorder.

Her parents believe she could improve with therapy.