Why were Terri Schiavo’s wishes determined according to a standard of ‘clear and convincing evidence’? Judge George Greer found the precedent in a previous case that the Florida Supreme Court decided in 1990, In re Guardianship of Browning. The Browning in the title was Estelle M. Browning, and…hmmm….where have I heard that name before? Oh, right. Estelle Browning was George Felos’ client, the one with whom he enjoyed (according to his book, Litigation as Spiritual Practice) telepathic communication in a spontaneous bedside seance. Felos laid the groundwork for the Schiavo decision in 1990 through his work on Browning. It’s a small world, after all–or in Mr. Felos’ case, a medium.
Ms. Browning was in her late eighties, and there was considerably less doubt about her wishes since she had signed a living will that explicitly asked for a feeding tube not to be used. In fact, there is no conflicting testimony offered to dispute the fact that Ms. Browning intended for her life support to end under the circumstances she faced. Mr. Felos, armed with a Savonarolan certainty of his mission, continued to litigate the case even after Estelle Browning died in 1989, convincing the Florida Supreme Court of the urgency of the matter even though it was moot.
Some questions I would like to ask George Felos, should he be so kind as to read my mind and respond either through e-mail (seedub [at] hotmail.com) or angelic manifestation:
I wonder whether Mr. Felos engaged in a similar sort of mystic colloquy with Terri Schiavo, who was (like Ms. Browning) diagnosed as being in a Persistent Vegetative State?
Did he feel “the mid-section of his body open” again when he communed with Terri? Did he presume to form an opinion of either incapacitated client’s wishes to die based solely or even partially on a magical mid-section-opening vision?
Does Mr. Felos really believe that persons in a PVS are, like he claims of Estelle Browning, aware of their surroundings, suffering psychological trauma, and capable of thinking in complete sentences like ‘Why am I still here … why am I here?’
If so, was this dream-quest evidence disclosed to opposing counsel or was it protected under attorney-client confidentiality? In the future, may Mr. Felos’ opponents move for discovery of “all conversations, transmissions, revelations, etc. of an extra-sensory, paranormal, clairvoyant or eldritch nature”?*
When the court wrote in Browning that “Unfortunately, human limitations preclude absolute knowledge of the wishes of someone in Mrs. Browning’s condition”, had Mr. Felos made them aware of his own personal and miraculous transcendence of these limitations, or had he withheld material information from the Court?
Does Mr. Felos’ construing that his client wished to die based on a parapsychological epiphany constitute legal malpractice in the state of Florida?
Does the imposition of Mr. Felos’ private spiritual beliefs upon the public policy process violate the Establishment Clause, or does the Establishment Clause apply only to Evangelical and Catholic Christians?
The lovely, the talented, the XRLQ is chasing this story down from the other end. I found the link to the Browning case through his post here.
*I would seriously advise the next attorney to oppose Mr. Felos to do something like this–and hold a press conference–in order to make his bat-crap gonzo looniness a matter of public comment.
UPPADATE: Justene sends word of this article from way-back-when (2001) about the wacky hijinks of the oh-so-spiritual Mr. Felos, which mentions his otherworldly experience in the Browning case. This was not revealed for the first time in his book, and the media could have followed up on it had they been so inclined. Not only does Mr. Felos engage in yoga and drink goat’s milk by the gallon, he wears birkenstocks to court. Now, living in California as I do, all that seems pretty normal to me, but this line caught my eye:
The case gained him a reputation as the person to see when you want to let someone die.
We have a name for people like that where I come from.