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Father: Brain-damaged daughter responsive

Bob Schindler, Terri Schiavo's father, talks to members of the media on Thursday.

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The brain-damaged Florida woman at the center of a right-to-die dispute between her husband and her parents had her feeding tube reinserted. CNN's Susan Candiotti reports. (October 23)
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Jeb Bush

PINELLAS PARK, Florida (CNN) -- The father who has fought for more than five years to keep his brain-damaged daughter alive said when he visited her Thursday, she turned down his kisses, saying, "Uh-uh."

"I was in front of her and I'm kissing her on the cheek, and she doesn't like that," said a smiling Bob Schindler after visiting his 39-year-old daughter Terri Schiavo.

He said he then asked, "'Do you want me to kiss you again?' She goes, 'Uh-uh. Uh-uh.' That's what I got from her."

Terri Schiavo's brain was damaged in 1990 when she collapsed from heart failure, the result of doctors' misdiagnosis. She recovered from the heart attack, but oxygen was cut off to her brain, leaving her in what doctors call a "persistent vegetative state."

Eight years later, her husband and legal guardian, Michael Schiavo, filed a court petition to remove his wife's feeding tube as he claims his wife wanted, according to the St. Petersburg Times. The woman did not have a will.

Terri Schiavo's family fought the move, maintaining that their daughter responds to them and should be kept alive with a feeding tube.

Schindler said Wednesday his daughter is "alert, active, a live human being" and said videotapes that showed her condition moved Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to act on her behalf.

Michael Schiavo claims Terri did not want to be kept alive artificially. Doctors said last week she would have died within two weeks without the feeding tube.

A court seemingly ended the five-year legal battle when it ordered the tube removed last week. But the state legislature quickly passed a law giving the governor the right to intervene, which he did Tuesday. The feeding tube was reinserted Wednesday.

Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, said the law allowing Bush to order her feeding tube reinserted is unconstitutional. His attorneys asked a circuit court judge in Pinellas County Tuesday to grant an emergency injunction preventing the re-feeding of his wife.

The judge rejected the request, but gave attorneys five days to file paperwork for a permanent injunction.

"Each of us -- and the Florida Supreme Court has said this -- has a right to control our own body," Felos said. "We have a fundamental right to make our own medical treatment choices, and the state doesn't have a right to override our wishes."

Michael Schiavo has not allowed the family to see Terri Schiavo's medical reports, but Wednesday he allowed them to visit her.

An ambulance returned Terri Schiavo to hospice care in Pinellas Park, Florida on Wednesday evening.
An ambulance returned Terri Schiavo to hospice care in Florida on Wednesday evening.

Schindler said when he saw his daughter Wednesday night she looked withdrawn, but "today it's just the opposite."

He said his daughter looked a little weak from not having food for a week, but "other than that, she really looks good, I mean, too good.

"She looks like she did before this incident with the tube," he said, adding that the family is trying to get access to medical reports on her current condition.

Asked if the husband may finally give in to the family's demands and just walk away from the entire case, Schindler said he was unaware of any such possibility, but would definitely welcome it.

"Michael Schiavo is not our primary concern," the father said. "It's to see her back to the condition she should be in."

Independent guardian to be appointed

A Pinellas County Circuit Court judge this week ordered lawyers for both sides to agree within five days on an independent guardian for Terri, as required under the law signed by the governor.

The new guardian would become Terri Schiavo's advocate in legal proceedings, but Michael Schiavo would remain the decision-maker.

If an agreement cannot be reached, the judge said he will appoint Dr. Jay Wolfson, a professor of health and law at Stetson University, as the guardian. Wolfson also works for the College of Public Health at Florida State University and the College of Medicine at the University of South Florida.

Terri Schiavo
Terri Schiavo

Terri Schiavo's parents have accused their son-in-law of selfish motivations. Michael Schiavo -- who has a girlfriend with whom he has a child -- won $1.2 million in a malpractice case against his wife's gynecologist and another $250,000 in a settlement with her general practitioner. Most of that money was to go toward her treatment.

In addition, he received $300,000 for pain and suffering and loss of consortium.

Michael Schiavo has declined to comment on whether there is an outstanding life insurance policy on his wife.

CNN correspondent John Zarrella contributed to this report.

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