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Woman's feeding tube removed

Terri Schiavo in an undated photograph.
Terri Schiavo in an undated photograph.

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PINELLAS PARK, Florida (CNN) -- The feeding tube was removed Wednesday from a woman who has been in a coma-like state since 1990, beginning a process that could take up to two weeks to bring about her death.

But the parents of Terri Schiavo, 39, remained optimistic that Gov. Jeb Bush still could intervene and order the feeding tube re-inserted.

The parents, Mary and Bob Schindler, have been in a long fight to keep their daughter alive. They have been opposed by Schiavo's husband and legal guardian, Michael Schiavo, who has said his wife would never have wanted to remain alive in such a state.

"I just haven't given up hope yet," Mary Schindler told reporters outside the hospice where her daughter has been living.

Bob Schindler said this of Michael Schiavo, his daughter's husband: "He's going to live with this a lot longer than we will. That's his conscience, and his girlfriend's conscience."

The feeding tube was to be removed at 2 p.m., and an attorney for Michael Schiavo confirmed its removal.

Randall Terry, president for the Society for Truth and Justice, has acted as a family spokesman. Terry is co-founder of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue.

"It's an outrage," Terry said. "She's being starved to death. We would not treat an animal like this and we're hoping that Gov. Bush intervenes."

The two parents met Wednesday with Bush in a final push to get the governor to intervene. Bob Schindler said the meeting was positive and that Bush said he would have "his staff explore every, every possibility."

"We felt a lot better when we left the interview with him," Bob Schindler said. "He is a fine, fine man and he has high integrity and I have confidence in him."

Terry said the key question they put to the governor was: "Does the chief executive officer of this state have the authority under the constitution to intervene if he believes that an innocent person is being killed, even if it is happening under the color of law?"

Terri Schiavo has been in what the courts call a persistent vegetative state since collapsing at her home from heart failure in 1990. The heart failure temporarily cut off oxygen to her brain and caused massive brain damage.

Michael Schiavo asked to have the feedings of his wife discontinued, claiming she had made clear in the past she did not want to live on life support.

According to her parents' Web site, www.terrisfight.org, Terri Schiavo left no will or other written instructions.

Terry Schiavo can open her eyes. Her parents say she can laugh, cry and make noises. But people in such a state occasionally grimace, cry or laugh, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

The feeding tube was removed one time previously for 60 hours before it was reinserted under court order. The father said he hoped that would happen again, but added, "The longer this goes, the more concerned I'll be."

Outside the hospice, dozens of people held signs, sang hymns and chanted slogans such as "Who will be next?" and "It could be your daughter." One sign read, "Let her live!" Another said, "Stay Terri's Execution."

Doctors and medical experts testified in previous court proceedings it may take up to two weeks for Terri Schiavo to die once the tube is removed.

On Tuesday, the 2nd Florida District Court of Appeal in Lakeland refused to block a probate judge's order to remove the feeding tube. Florida's Supreme Court has twice refused to hear the case. The U.S. Supreme Court also declined to hear it in 2001.

Michael Schiavo has collected more than $1 million from settlements and court awards, money the Schindlers claim should have been used for rehabilitative care.

Michael Schiavo says the Schindlers' comments stem from anger because they didn't receive any money from the malpractice suit.

He said 18 doctors had examined his wife over the past 13 years, and she has been to several hospitals. She even had a brain stimulator placed in her head but showed no progress, he said.


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