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Schiavo's parents almost out of options
Updated: 2005-03-25 10:11

With Terri Schiavo visibly drawing closer to death Thursday, her parents refused to give up the fight to reinsert their brain-damaged daughter's feeding tube, despite being rebuffed by both the nation's highest court and a Florida judge.

Bob and Mary Schindler held onto the slim hope that Gov. Jeb Bush would somehow find a way to intervene or a federal judge who had turned them down before would see things their way. But Bush warned that he was running out of options.

Terri Schiavo, centre, poses with her parents, Mary and Bob Schindler, in this undated photo. (AP Photo/Schindler Family, File)
Terri Schiavo, centre, poses with her parents, Mary and Bob Schindler, in this undated photo.[AP/File]
As of Thursday afternoon, Schiavo, 41, had been without food or water for six full days and was showing signs of dehydration — flaky skin, dry tongue and lips, sunken eyes, according to attorneys and friends of the Schindlers. Doctors have said she would probably die within a week or two of the tube being pulled.

"It's very frustrating. Every minute that goes by is a minute that Terri is being starved and dehydrated to death," said her brother, Bobby Schindler, who said seeing her was like looking at "pictures of prisoners in concentration camps."

A lawyer for Schiavo's husband, Michael Schiavo, said he hoped the woman's parents and the governor would finally give up their fight.

"We believe it's time for that to stop as we approach this Easter weekend and that Mrs. Schiavo be able to die in peace," attorney George Felos said.

The Schindlers and their lawyers appeared before a federal judge in Tampa on Thursday evening to make another emergency request that the feeding tube be reattached while the parents pursue their claims that Schiavo's religious and due-process rights were violated. U.S. District Judge James Whittemore previously rejected a similar request.

As the hearing began, Whittemore asked Shindler lawyer David Gibbs III to focus on the legal issues because he was aware of Terri Schiavo's declining health. Gibbs argued that, as she lay dying, her rights to life and privacy were being violated.

Schiavo suffered brain damage in 1990 when her heart stopped briefly from a chemical imbalance believed to have been brought on by an eating disorder. She left no living will, but her husband argued that she told him she would not want to be kept alive artificially. Her parents dispute that, and contend she could get better.

The dispute has led to what may be the longest, most heavily litigated right-to-die case in U.S. history.

The U.S. Supreme Court, without explanation, refused Thursday to order the feeding tube reinserted. The case worked its way through the federal courts and reached the Supreme Court after Congress passed an extraordinary law over the weekend to let the Schindlers take their case to federal court.

Later in the day, Pinellas County Circuit Judge George Greer denied Bush's request to let the state take Schiavo into protective custody and, presumably, restore her feeding tube. Bush cited new allegations that Schiavo was neglected and abused, and challenged her diagnosis as being in a persistent vegetative state.

The state immediately appealed to the Florida Supreme Court. State law allows Florida's social services agency to act in emergency situations of adult abuse.

"For this lockdown to occur without having the ability to have an open mind, and say, 'Well, maybe there are new facts on the table, maybe there are new technologies, maybe, just maybe, we should be cautious about this' ... is very troubling," Bush said.

In an interview with The Associated Press, the governor acknowledged that his hands are increasingly tied.

"It is frustrating for people to think that I have power that I don't, and not be able to act," he said. "I don't have embedded special powers. I wish I did in this particular case."

In his ruling, Greer said an affidavit from a neurologist who believes that Schiavo is "minimally conscious" was not enough to set aside his decision to allow the withdrawal of food and water.

"By clear and convincing evidence, it was determined she did not want to live under such burdensome conditions and that she would refuse such medical treatment-assistance," Greer wrote.

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