Archive for Sunday, March 27, 2005

Schiavo’s parents ending legal fight

March 27, 2005


— After another round of losses in the courts, Terri Schiavo's parents kept watch over their dying daughter Saturday, trying in vain to give her Easter communion as their attorneys acknowledged the fight to reconnect the brain-damaged woman's feeding tube was nearing an end.

Attorneys for Bob and Mary Schindler decided not to file another motion with a federal appeals court, essentially ending their effort to persuade federal judges to intervene -- something allowed by an extraordinary law passed by Congress.

Late Saturday, the Florida Supreme Court dismissed a request from the parents' attorney to have their daughter's feeding tube reinserted, turning aside an emergency petition arguing that a Pinellas County judge ignored new evidence of Schiavo's wishes and her medical condition.

At least two more appeals loomed by the state and Gov. Jeb Bush, but those challenges were before the state 2nd District Court of Appeal, which has rebuffed the governor's previous efforts in the case.

Family supporters said Schiavo's breathing became increasingly labored during the day. An attorney for the Schindlers, Barbara Weller, said hospice workers began giving morphine to Schiavo to ease pain brought on by her body's failure.

Schiavo's husband, Michael, has said she would not want to be kept alive artificially. The Schindlers believe their daughter could improve and say she laughs, cries, responds to them and tries to talk.

Weller said Terri cried when her mother hugged her Saturday night. "She knows what's going on. She was trying to vocalize something with Mary."

"The governor should know that Terri still knows who her mother is, and she's extremely distressed," Weller said. "She's not a vegetable who doesn't know what is happening."

Paul O'Donnell, a Roman Catholic Franciscan monk, said the family unsuccessfully urged Michael Schiavo to allow his wife the sacrament of communion during the holiest feast of the Catholic year. She received last rites the day the feeding tube was pulled.

"This is in violation of her religious rights and freedoms and allows the governor to ... intervene," O'Donnell said, repeating the family's request that the governor take Schiavo into protective custody. "We beg you to have courage and take action."

The family had asked for Schiavo, who cannot swallow, to have a minuscule piece of bread and a drop of wine placed in her mouth.

Earlier, Pinellas Circuit Judge George Greer rejected the family's latest motion. The family claimed Schiavo tried to say "I want to live" hours before her tube was removed, saying "AHHHHH" and "WAAAAAAA" when asked to repeat the phrase.

Doctors have said her previous utterances weren't speech, but were involuntary moans consistent with someone in a vegetative state. Greer agreed.

Scott Schiavo, the brother of Schiavo's husband said the family was pleased to see the Schindlers' efforts nearing an end.

"He knows in his heart he is doing the right thing, he is doing what Terri wanted," Scott Schiavo said. "He's having a hard time understanding why people are fighting him on this, why they are calling him a murderer. It's very tough on him."

Doctors have said she would probably die within a week or two of her feeding tube being pulled, which was done March 18 after Greer sided with her husband. Her body wracked by dehydration, attorneys for her parents said she may not last through the weekend.

"She's doing remarkably well under the circumstances," said Schiavo's father, Bob Schindler, after visiting her inside the hospice Saturday afternoon. "She has put up a tremendous battle to live. She's not throwing in the towel."

Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, denied reports by the parents' attorneys that her tongue and eyes were bleeding.

"She is calm. She is peaceful. She is resting comfortably," Felos told reporters Saturday as four sheriff's deputies stood by to protect him.

Terri Schiavo's brother, Bobby Schindler, called that "absurd" and challenged Felos to allow videos and photos to be released, so the public can see Terri's condition. "They're mischaracterizing the condition today, just as they have been ... It's sick. It's heinous," he said.

Felos said earlier that allowing videos to be recorded inside Terri Schiavo's room during her death process would violate her privacy rights.

Outside the hospice, about 60 protesters maintained a subdued vigil and, like her parents, hoped for a miracle. Some said they believed it was not a coincidence that the woman would lay dying during the Easter weekend.

Late Saturday the Schindlers asked protesters to go home.

"Be with your children. Hold them close and cherish every moment you have with them," O'Donnell said, speaking for the couple. "Tomorrow, as we celebrate Easter, they pray that you gather in the churches of your own denomination and, if you would, offer a prayer for their daughter."

Schiavo was reared in the Roman Catholic church, and her parents have made heavy use of her faith as the basis for the numerous appeals to reinsert the feeding tube that was removed more than a week ago.

The Schindlers have argued, for instance, that she should be spared based on statements by Pope John Paul II that people in vegetative states have a right to nutrition and hydration. They say Terri would have obeyed the pope and would not choose to have her tube removed. That argument was rebuffed in the state courts.

Terri Schiavo has been without food and water longer than she was in 2003, when the tube was removed for six days before Gov. Jeb Bush pushed through a law to have it reinserted. The law was later thrown out by the state Supreme Court.

Many supporters of the Schindlers say Bush could simply ignore the courts and take emergency custody of Schiavo. But Bush, himself a convert to Roman Catholicism, has said he's not willing to go beyond the boundaries of his powers.

Terri 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.

Associated Press writers Mike Schneider, Allen Breed and Jackie Hallifax contributed to this report.

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