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News of the Day ... In Perspective

07/03/2006

Nurse’s license threatened for speaking out on Schiavo case

The Florida Department of Health is trying to permanently revoke the nursing license of Carla Sauer Iyer, a former caregiver of Terri Schiavo, and force her to pay about $1,700 in administrative costs. Iyer has refused the DOH request that she “voluntarily” relinquish her livelihood. If she did that, she would waive all rights to seek judicial review or otherwise to challenge the validity of the relinquishment.

Iyer allegedly violated Mrs. Schiavo’s confidentiality rights by giving an interview to CNN.

Complainant Eileen Sullivan, R.N., stated that “Ms. Sauer-Iyer made inflammatory comments regarding Mrs. Schiavo’s husband, Michael (e.g., ‘when is that b-i-t-c-h [spelled out by Ms. Sauer-Iyer] going to die?’ Ms. Sauer-Iyer also made unsubstantiated comments regarding her patient’s medical condition commenting that with ‘just a little bit of therapy,’ Mrs. Schiavo could be rehabilitated….”

Iyer states that the public has the right to know what really happened in the Schiavo case and that she had a legally and constitutionally protected right to express her opinions and discuss what was already a matter of public record.

Iyer stated in a 2003 court affidavit, in an action challenging Schiavo’s guardianship, that nurses at Palm Garden were threatened with termination if they did not follow Michael Schiavo’s orders instead of the doctor’s. And she had herself been terminated in 1996, the day after filing a police report alleging that Schiavo had injected his wife with insulin in an apparent attempt to kill her.

When asked why she felt it was improper for Iyer to speak out on television about a subject that had been a matter of public record for 18 months, Sullivan said that on television information reached millions rather than being confined to a courtroom.

The DOH sees no cause to discipline Michael Schiavo, also a nurse, though he has spoken publicly about his wife’s confidential medical condition continually since 1990. The DOH has also determined that it has no cause of action against Schiavo for falsifying his academic credentials.

“It appears that Carla Iyer has been singled out by the DOH for disciplinary action in what also appears to be a politically motivated act and retaliation,” writes June Maxim in the North Country Gazette of June 25.

[As the late Petr Beckmann noted, the First Amendment gives you the right to speak—as long as not very many people are listening.]

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