Schiavo's parents lose appeals bid

Thursday, March 24, 2005

ATLANTA -- For the second time in less than a day, a federal appeals court Wednesday rejected a bid by Terri Schiavo's parents to have her feeding tube re-inserted. The Florida Senate also turned back another last-ditch effort to prolong her life.

The Senate bill would have prohibited patients like Schiavo from being denied food and water if they did not express their wishes in writing.

The 21-18 vote came five days after her feeding tube was removed under court order. Similar efforts in the legislature have failed in the past.

In a 10-2 decision earlier Wednesday, the Atlanta-based U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused Bob and Mary Schindler's request for an emergency rehearing by the full court. A three-judge panel from the same court ruled against the family earlier Wednesday.

The court did not give an explanation for its decision. Matt Davidson, a clerk for the court, said it normally does not make statements when it votes on whether to consider a request.

However, the dissenting judges did make statements. Judge Charles R. Wilson, who also dissented in the three-judge panel's ruling, said he still stood by his earlier rationale that Schiavo's "imminent" death would end the case before it could be fully considered. "I fail to see any harm in reinserting the feeding tube," he wrote in the earlier ruling.

The parents have vowed to take their fight to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has refused to get involved previously.

Supporters of the parents grew increasingly dismayed by the developments, and 10 protesters were arrested outside Schiavo's hospice for trying to bring her water. The severely brain-damaged woman's mother pleaded, again, that her daughter be kept alive.

"When I close my eyes at night, all I can see is Terri's face in front of me, dying, starving to death," Mary Schindler said outside the hospice. "Please, someone out there, stop this cruelty. Stop the insanity. Please let my daughter live."

Terri Schiavo has not received any nourishment since the tube was pulled Friday afternoon. By late Tuesday, Terri's eyes were sunken, her skin was parched and flaking and her lips and tongue were parched, said Barbara Weller, an attorney for the Schindlers.

Doctors have said she could survive one to two weeks without the feeding tube.

A lawyer for Michael Schiavo said he was "very pleased" by the initial appeals court ruling. But he worried that, as her parents ran out of options, either Gov. Jeb Bush or lawmakers might try again to take Terri Schiavo into their custody and circumvent years of court rulings that support the husband's position. Michael Schiavo argued that his wife has no hope of recovery and would want to die.

"They have no more power than you or I or a person walking down the street to say we have the right to take Terri Schiavo," attorney George Felos said in a state court hearing.

In Tallahassee, the state capital, Bush renewed his call for the Legislature to "spare Terri's life." The governor and the head of the state's social services agency also said they have filed a petition with a Pinellas County trial court seeking to take custody of Schiavo. It cites new allegations of neglect and challenges Schiavo's diagnosis as being in a persistent vegetative state based on the opinion of a neurologist working for the state. The doctor observed Schiavo at her bedside but did not conduct an examination of her.

Bush and Department of Children & Families Secretary Lucy Hadi suggested they have authority to intervene on Schiavo's behalf regardless of the outcome of the bill in the Florida Legislature or a myriad of court decisions.

Senate Democratic Leader Les Miller said the bill that failed in the Senate faced a similar fate to one that was pushed through in 2003 to reconnect the tube six days after it was removed.

"By the time the ink is dry on the governor's signature, it will be declared unconstitutional, just like it was before," Miller said. "So I don't see anything or any language that can persuade my vote."

Meanwhile, President Bush suggested that he and Congress had done their best to help the parents prolong Schiavo's life, and the White House said it has no further legal options.

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. Court-appointed doctors say she is in a persistent vegetative state with no hope of recovery.

Her parents and their doctors argue that she could get better and that she would never have wanted to be cut off from food and water.

In their appeal, the Schindlers asked that the full court order the hospice in Florida where Schiavo is staying to immediately transport her to a hospital "for any medical necessary to sustain her life and to re-establish her nutrition and hydration."

"The process of dying by dehydration and starvation is not the euphoric experience (Michael Schiavo) would lead us to believe," the appeal said.

But the effort before the appeals court failed.

"There is no denying the absolute tragedy that has befallen Mrs. Schiavo," the ruling by Judges Ed Carnes and Frank M. Hull said. "We all have our own family, our own loved ones, and our own children. However, we are called upon to make a collective, objective decision."

Federal courts were given jurisdiction to review Schiavo's case after Republicans in Congress pushed through unprecedented emergency legislation over the weekend aimed at prolonging Schiavo's life.

"I believe that in a case such as this, the legislative branch, the executive branch, ought to err on the side of life, which we have," the president said Wednesday. "Now we'll watch the courts make their decisions."

But some of the Schindlers' supporters continued to try to take matters into their own hands. About a dozen people tried to bring water to Schiavo, but police arrested most of them, as they have done to others who had similar motives in recent days.

Chris Keys, 45, of Burnet, Texas, held his 2-year-old daughter, Farrah, as he prepared to get arrested with three of his other children. The toddler was taken by her mother so police could handcuff Keys and the other children.

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