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Family calls on Gov. Bush to save disabled woman

Disability rights group plans appeal to president

Terri Schiavo in shown in this undated photograph.
Terri Schiavo in shown in this undated photograph.

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(CNN) -- Disability rights activists and family members of a woman in a coma-like state whose feeding tube was removed at her husband's request made another appeal Saturday for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to intervene to save her life.

The feeding tube that has nourished Terry Schiavo, 39, for a dozen years was removed Wednesday after a lengthy and contentious court battle pitting her husband and legal guardian, Michael, against her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler.

Doctors said that without the tube, Schiavo will die within two weeks.

"Terry has now been without food and water for three full days, and time is running out," said her sister, Suzanne Carr, at a news conference outside the hospice in Pinellas Park, near St. Petersburg.

"Governor Bush, you know you have the authority to intervene on Terry's behalf, and yet you haven't. We would hope that a human life means more to you than Republican politics or even bad press," she said.

Bush, who met with the Schindlers on Wednesday, has expressed sympathy for their position but has said there is little he can do to countermand court orders allowing the tube to be removed.

Diane Coleman, founder of the disability rights group Not Dead Yet, said Saturday that allowing Schiavo to die would set a troublesome precedent that could threaten thousands of disabled people.

"If this case goes forward as it has been, [guardians] will be given carte blanche to kill people with disabilities that they would rather be without," she said. "We must have checks and balances on the powers of guardians, and those have been eroded here in Florida."

She said advocates for the disabled plan to go to the White House on Sunday to ask President Bush to call on the governor, his brother, to take Schiavo into state custody "and protect her right to due process."

President Bush is traveling in Asia throughout next week.

Schiavo has been in what doctors call a persistent vegetative state since collapsing from heart failure in 1990. She is not terminally ill, but her condition requires a feeding tube be used to provide her with nutrition and hydration.

Michael Schiavo asked that the tube be removed because his wife made it clear before her collapse that she did not want to live on life support and because she has no meaningful hope of recovery. Her parents dispute that contention, insisting that despite her medical condition, she still responds to them and could improve with rehabilitative care.

The Schindlers accuse Michael Schiavo, who collected more than $1 million in malpractice settlements stemming from his wife's collapse, of trying to remove the tube so that he can keep the money and pursue a new relationship.

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

He said 18 doctors had examined his wife during the past 13 years, and she has been to several hospitals.

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