A federal judge early this morning refused to order reinsertion of Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube, leaving the fate of the severely brain-injured Florida woman unresolved.
After emergency intervention by Congress and President Bush, the judge heard a request by the parents of Terri Schiavo to restore the life-sustaining feeding tube.
The tube was removed Friday afternoon after Florida courts rejected a flurry of motions by Robert and Mary Schindler to keep their daughter alive.
In a 13-page ruling, U.S. District Judge James Whittemore of Tampa said the 41-year-old woman’s parents had not established a “substantial likelihood of success” at trial on the merits of their arguments.
Whittemore wrote that Terri Schiavo’s ”life and liberty interests” had been protected by Florida courts. Despite ”these difficult and time strained circumstances,” he wrote, ”this court is constrained to apply the law to the issues before it.”
Judge Whittemore, who was appointed by President Clinton in 1999, was chosen by lottery to investigate whether Terri Schiavo’s constitutional and statutory rights have been violated since she suffered a severe brain injury 15 years ago under disputed circumstances.
Rex Sparklin, an attorney with the law firm representing Terri Schiavo’s parents, said lawyers immediately were appealing to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta to ”save Terri’s life.” That court already was considering an appeal on whether Terri Schiavo’s right to due process had been violated.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill early Monday that sent the case to federal court for review. President Bush signed it into law moments later.
“In cases like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life,” Bush said in a statement.
The emergency House vote of 203-58 came at 12:30 a.m. following a voice vote in the U.S. Senate. House Democrats stalled the vote forcing lawmakers into an emergency late-night session.
The president rushed back from his Texas ranch to sign the measure that could trigger a federal court review and a quick restoration of feeding tubes needed to keep the brain-injured Florida woman alive.
“We are very very thankful to have crossed this bridge,” Suzanne Vitadamo, Terri Schiavo’s sister, told reporters following the vote. “We are hopeful, we are very hopeful, that the federal courts will follow the will of Congress and save my sister’s life.”
Republican supporters said the “Palm Sunday Compromise” would protect the constitutional rights of a disabled person, and denied suggestions that they viewed the case as an opportunity to shore up support among religious conservatives ahead of next year’s elections.
But Rep. Jim Davis, D-Fla., said the congressional action was “a clear threat to our democracy.” Congress, he said, was ignoring the constitutional separation of power and “is on the verge of telling states, courts, judges and juries that their opinions, deliberations and decisions do not matter.”
Schiavo, 41, collapsed under disputed circumstances Feb. 25, 1990, suffering severe brain damage when her heart stopped momentarily. Her husband, Michael Schiavo, attributes the collapse to an eating disorder, but the Schindlers strongly suspect he tried to strangle her.
The Schindlers have pleaded with Michael Schiavo to divorce their daughter, pointing out his live-in relationship with another woman, with whom he has two children.
“It’s not about me, it’s not about Congress, it’s about Terri,” Michael Schiavo said Friday on CNN’s “Larry King Live” program.
“I want you all to think about going through a judicial process to have your own wishes granted and then the Congress and the government walking in on that because of their personal views. That’s absurd.”
Michael Schiavo has maintained Terri had no desire to live under her current medical conditions, though there was no written corroboration of that.