The battle to end Terri Schiavo’s court-ordered death by starvation took another blow this morning after, for the second time, a federal judge rejected the emergency request of her parents to reinsert the brain-injured woman’s feeding tube.
U.S. District Judge James Whittemore is still considering a lawsuit Bob and Mary Schindler filed to appeal last Friday’s removal of the feeding tube, ordered by a Florida court in response to the request of Terri Schiavo’s estranged husband, Michael Schiavo, who maintains his wife does not want to be kept alive through artificial means.
Terri Schiavo before suffering severe brain damage in 1990.
Earlier this week, the Schindlers filed an emergency motion asking Whittemore to order the reinsertion of the feeding tube while he considers whether their daughter’s religious, due-process, and other basic rights under the Constitution have been violated, and whether death by dehydration and starvation amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.
“Once again the critical issue is whether plaintiffs have established a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of any one of counts six through ten,” Whittemore wrote in an 11-page decision. “On careful consideration of each count, the court concludes that plaintiffs have not shown a substantial case on the merits.”
Whittemore acknowledged “the difficulties and heartbreak the parties have endured throughout this lengthy process” and praised the lawyers’ civility, saying it was “a credit to their professionalism.”
The Schindlers have appealed Whittemore’s new ruling to the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta, which refused to overturn his first ruling earlier this week.
“Terri is weakening. She’s down to her last hours. Something has to be done and has to be done quick,” Bob Schindler pleaded at a press conference this morning outside the Pinellas Park, Fla., hospice where his daughter resides and where supporters have maintained a round-the-clock vigil for over a week.
Calling it the family’s last hope, he sounded a tone of optimism over the family’s latest appeal.
“What’s in front of [the appellate court judges] is very, very … strong,” he told reporters. “It’s important. The legal opinion that we’re getting is telling us that the judge’s decision last night should be reversed and we’re … waiting for that.”
George Felos, the attorney representing Michael Schiavo, could not be reached for comment.
Michael Schiavo originally won a court order in 2000 to have his wife’s feeding tube removed, claiming she was in a persistent vegetative state, or PVS, and had made “casual statements” to him and two members of his family a year before she was injured that she wouldn’t want to live in such a condition.
The Schindlers, however, insist their daughter, while severely handicapped, is responsive and demonstrates a strong will to live. Their opinion is buttressed by more than 30 sworn affidavits signed by physicians disputing Terri remains in PVS.
Terri Schiavo has no written directive on the matter.
Schiavo and the Schindlers have been locked in a contentious 7-year court battle over the incapacitated woman’s fate.
Terri Schiavo responding to her mother in video clip available
Meanwhile, eight days of dehydration and starvation have taken a toll on the 41-year-old, according to family members who describe her as “weakening” and in “her last hours.” Bob Schindler said she was “still responsive” and had smiled at her mother, but he’s concerned she’s no longer verbalizing like she used to during their visits.
Yesterday, Bobby Schindler described his sister as resembling a Nazi concentration-camp victim.
Michael Schiavo’s brother, Brian Schiavo, disputes that assessment. While conceding to CNN that Terri Schiavo “does look a little withdrawn,” he insisted she was not in pain and said starvation is simply “part of the death process.”
This marks the third time her feeding tube has been pulled since 2000. In 2003, she endured six days of starvation and dehydration before the Florida Legislature passed “Terri’s Law,” which empowered Gov. Jeb Bush to intervene and order the tube reinserted.
“Terri’s Law” was later ruled unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court, which said it violated the legal separation between the three branches of government.
Supporters of Terri Schiavo are looking to the governor again as her last hope and have urged him to exercise executive authority and take custody of the brain-disabled woman.
WND reported, Bush’s comments suggest such unilateral action appears unlikely.
Terri Schiavo collapsed under disputed circumstances Feb. 25, 1990, suffering severe brain damage when her heart stopped momentarily. Michael Schiavo attributes the collapse to a bulimia-induced heart attack, but the Schindlers strongly suspect he tried to strangle her.
The Schindlers have pleaded with Michael Schiavo to divorce their daughter and allow them to take custody of her, pointing out his engagement to another woman with whom he lives and has fathered two children.
Michael Schiavo refuses to divorce Terri on the basis that he wants to ensure her end-of-life wishes are carried out.
Terri Schiavo is not hooked up to any machines, but she requires the small feeding tube for nourishment and hydration.
Doctors pulled the feeding tube March 18 after Pinellas-Pasco County Circuit Court Judge George Greer blocked an eleventh-hour end-run waged by members of House and Senate panels.
The U.S. House Government Reform Committee announced it was launching an investigation into the Terri Schiavo case and issued subpoenas for her, her physicians and staff members of the hospice to give testimony to members of the panel today.
At the same time, the Senate Health Committee also requested Terri and Michael Schiavo appear at an official committee hearing on March 28.
Greer quashed the subpoenas.
Early Monday, President Bush signed legislation rushed through Congress over the weekend that called for a thorough review of the case.
The move sparked a renewed flurry of court appeals and counter-appeals, and the case wound up before Whittemore.
For backround on the 15-year saga, read “The whole Terri Schiavo story.”
Editor’s note: WorldNetDaily has been reporting on the Terri Schiavo story since 2002 – far longer than most other national news organization – and exposing the many troubling, scandalous, and possibly criminal, aspects of the case that to this day rarely surface in news reports. Read WorldNetDaily’s unparalleled, in-depth coverage of the life-and-death fight over Terri Schiavo, including over 150 original stories and columns.
Court documents and other information are posted on the Schindler family website.
Links to all “Terri briefs” regarding the governor’s defense of Terri’s Law are on the Florida Supreme Court website, public information.