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Supreme Court refuses to hear Schiavo appeal

Other appeals pending in case of brain-damaged woman

From Bill Mears
CNN Washington Bureau

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Terri Schiavo
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the husband of a brain-damaged woman on Monday by refusing to intervene in a Florida appeal to keep her alive with a feeding tube.

The refusal to intervene, without comment, gives brain-damaged Theresa "Terri" Schiavo's husband, Michael, the right to remove the tube, although other legal appeals are pending.

Terri Schiavo's parents want a feeding tube to remain hooked to their daughter. In a persistent vegetative state, Terri Schiavo, 41, is able to breathe on her own, but is unable to swallow and depends on a feeding tube to remain alive.

After 10 years, her husband says she is not improving and would not have wanted to be kept alive in such a condition.

The appeal asked the court to rule on the constitutionality of the so-called "Terri's Law," passed by Florida lawmakers in October 2003. That law gave Gov. Jeb Bush the power to restore a feeding tube that has kept Terri Schiavo alive since 1990.

When Bush ordered the tube reinserted, Florida's highest court ruled the law unconstitutional, saying it wrongly vested such power in the executive branch. The court said such decisions should be decided in the judiciary.

The case has sparked nationwide debate over who has control over the care and, ultimately, life and death decisions involving patients who cannot make such decisions for themselves.

In February 1990, Terri Schiavo's heart stopped beating after she collapsed from a chemical imbalance caused by an eating disorder. She did not have a written directive before her collapse. Ten years later, her husband asked a court to have her feeding tube removed, arguing she had shown no improvement. A judge ruled Terri Schiavo would not have wanted to be kept alive artificially.

Her parents, Bob and May Schindler, appealed, saying their daughter never had expressed such opinions. They are seeking a new trial, arguing she has been denied her due process rights.

The parents have appealed the case to a Pinellas County judge and to a Florida District court asking for intervention.

Speaking in Washington after the court ruled, Bob Schindler called the ruling "pathetic" and "judicial homicide." He contends that, despite the diagnosis of some doctors, his daughter is "awake and alert."

Terri Schiavo's feeding tube has been removed on two occasions, but was later reinserted after emergency legal appeals were filed. She remains hooked to a feeding tube while legal issues make their way through the courts. The refusal by the Supreme Court to intervene will not end the legal appeals.

Doctors hired by opposing sides disagree over whether Terri Schiavo's condition can improve. There also is disagreement over the extent, if any, she is able to communicate and comprehend her surroundings.


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