Brain-damaged Florida woman receiving fluids
Gov. Bush orders effort to save her; judge declines injunction
TALLAHASSEE, Florida (CNN) -- Florida Gov. Jeb Bush ordered a feeding tube reinserted into a brain-damaged woman Tuesday afternoon, less than two hours after the Legislature passed a bill allowing him to do so.
Florida lawmakers gave Bush the authority in an effort to keep Terri Schiavo alive nearly a week after the tube was removed at the request of her husband, Michael. The lawmakers' move effectively overturned a court ruling that she be allowed to die.
"Like the tens of thousands of Floridians who have raised their voices in support of Terri Schiavo's right to live, I have been deeply moved by these tragic circumstances," Bush said in a statement issued after he signed the bill. "My thoughts and prayers remain with Terri and those who love her."
Schiavo was being cared for at a hospice in Pinellas Park but was moved Tuesday evening to a hospital in Clearwater. An attorney for Schiavo's parents said lawyers at Morton Plant Hospital told them Schiavo was being rehydrated intravenously in preparation for reinsertion of her feeding tube, which will not happen immediately.
Late Tuesday, a Pinellas Circuit Court judge rejected a request from Michael Schiavo's lawyers for a temporary injunction against Bush's order. The judge gave the attorneys five days to file paperwork for a permanent injunction.
Schiavo's attorneys argue that the bill authorizing Bush to reinsert the tube was unconstitutional.
"It violates the separation of powers between the judicial and executive branches," attorney Debbie Bushnell said.
George Felos, another attorney for Michael Schiavo, called Tuesday's ruling "a horrible, horrible tragedy."
"She was literally removed with threat of force from her death bed, moved to the hospital to have a surgical procedure that she didn't want," Felos said.
Earlier Tuesday, a judge in Clearwater had refused to issue a temporary restraining order that Michael Schiavo's attorneys had sought, saying the filing was made in the wrong jurisdiction.
The state Senate voted 23-15 on Tuesday to approve a measure allowing Bush to issue the one-time order. The tube had been removed after a lengthy court battle between Terri Schiavo's husband and her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler.
The bill also allows a judge to appoint an independent guardian for Schiavo, taking away guardianship from her husband.
By a vote of 68-23, the GOP-controlled Florida House had approved the bill late Monday.
Outside the hospice, the crowd cheered and embraced after learning of Bush's signature.
"I don't know what to say," said Bob Schindler. "I thank the governor, I thank everybody in the Legislature. There's a lot of people up there who pulled together. It's just incredible, totally incredible.
"We've had a roller coaster ride. Hopefully, that's over now."
Schindler told CNN's Aaron Brown his daughter is not in a persistent vegetative state and said he has affidavits from doctors saying she can recover with therapy.
"We've been fighting for the right thing, which is to give her a chance," Schindler said. "She's never had a chance, and that's the most despicable part of this. She was literally shelved. She has not been out of this room over here in the hospice for three years."
Schindler said his daughter would need physical therapy, because she hasn't had any in 10 years.
"So we have to restore her physically first and then go after her brain damage," he said. "It's not as bad as what people think, or are saying that it is."
The Schindlers had been publicly pressing Bush to intervene. He had expressed sympathy for their position but said he did not have the authority to countermand court orders allowing the tube to be removed.
Terri Schiavo, 39, suffered heart failure in 1990. Doctors said she is responsive but shows no significant cognitive ability, and that she was left in that condition when her heart failure cut the flow of oxygen to her brain, leaving it damaged.
Schiavo is not terminally ill, but because of her condition, she cannot feed herself, so the feeding tube provides her with nutrition and water.
She left no written instructions about her wishes should she be incapacitated, but Michael Schiavo said she made it clear before her collapse that she did not want to be sustained with life support.
"Some people do not agree with the decision the court made to remove this feeding tube. I struggle to accept it myself," Schiavo said in a statement late Monday. "But I know in my heart that it is right, and it is what Terri wants. There is no longer any realistic hope of Terri's recovery."
Her parents dispute that contention, insisting that despite her medical condition, she still responds to them and could improve with rehabilitative care.
Michael Schiavo collected more than $1 million in malpractice settlements stemming from his wife's collapse, but only about $50,000 of that settlement remains. The money has been frozen by the court.
The hospice is caring for Schiavo free of charge.