Skip to main content
The Web      Powered by
powered by Yahoo!

Federal judge weighs Schiavo case

Bush signs law letting parents seek restoration of feeding tube

Michael Schiavo blasted the president and Congress, accusing them of overstepping their bounds.
more videoVIDEO
How the Terri Schiavo case got to a federal court.

No immediate decision made in the Terri Schiavo hearing.

A look at what the court was considering.

Terri Schiavo's father thanks Congress for passing legislation.

• Interactive: Opinion poll
• Timeline: Schiavo case
• Audio Slide Show: Reaction to bill
• On the Scene: Politics involved
• On The Scene: Dehydration worry
• FindLaw:  Compromise Billexternal link

This term is commonly, but incorrectly, referred to as "brain-death." It can follow a coma.
People in a persistent vegetative state cannot think, speak or respond to commands and are not aware of their surroundings. They may have noncognitive functions and breathing and circulation may remain relatively intact.

They also might move spontaneously and even grimace, cry or laugh. Some people might regain some awareness after being in a persistent vegetative state, but others might remain in the state for decades.

Source: National Institutes of Health
Who should decide Terri Schiavo's fate?
Her parents
Her husband
Supreme Court

TAMPA, Florida (CNN) -- A federal judge Monday heard arguments on whether a feeding tube should be reinserted for Terri Schiavo, a brain-damaged woman at the center of a tug of war that triggered extraordinary congressional action over the weekend.

Judge James Whittemore of the Middle District of Florida did not indicate when he might rule on the matter.

"I will render a decision, but I will not tell you when," Whittemore said at the conclusion of the hearing.

David Gibbs -- an attorney for Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler -- filed documents overnight seeking a temporary restraining order and Schiavo's move from a hospice to a hospital for the tube's reinsertion.

Schiavo's feeding tube was removed Friday at the orders of a state court judge after repeated rulings that she is in a "persistent vegetative state" and that her husband and legal guardian, Michael Schiavo, has the right to make the decision.

Fifty-six percent of Americans agree with the decision to remove the feeding tube -- including 54 percent of Republicans and 55 percent of people who attend church at least monthly, according to a poll released Monday.

The CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll was based on telephone interviews of 909 American adults from Friday to Sunday. The margins of error for the questions ranged from plus-or-minus 3 percentage points to plus-or-minus 7 percentage points.

The two sides presented their cases in court Monday for 45 minutes apiece.

Gibbs repeatedly called for urgent action, saying Schiavo is dehydrating and starving "as we speak."

He said her right to due process has consistently been denied by lower courts -- a statement that drew intense questioning from the judge.

Pressed by Whittemore to cite any case law to support his argument, Gibbs admitted he could not think of any.

George Felos, an attorney for Michael Schiavo, pointed out that the husband is Terri Schiavo's legal guardian and argued that her parents don't have legal standing to make their case.

Felos also said Terri Schiavo told her best friend, brother-in-law and uncle that she would never want to be kept alive in this type of scenario.

Outside court, Felos told reporters that Terri Schiavo long ago made clear her wishes: "She said, 'I don't want to be kept alive artificially -- no tubes for me. I want to go when my time comes. Take the tubes and everything out.'"

Gibbs said he believes the judge will make a quick decision.

"We tried to stress the urgency of moving quickly," he said. "I'm sure the court is well aware that Terri does not have many days without food or water before she will die."

Attorneys for Michael Schiavo told CNN Monday before the hearing they would argue the new legislation represents the intrusion of Congress and the president into both a private family matter and a state court system.

Hours earlier, President Bush signed into law a bill authorizing the federal courts to review the case after emergency weekend sessions in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

Bush's signature followed a 203-58 vote in the House early Monday approving a bill to transfer the case's jurisdiction to federal court. The Senate passed the legislation by voice vote Sunday. (Full story)

At a town-meeting style appearance Monday in Tucson, Arizona, Bush said: "Democrats and Republicans in Congress came together last night to give Terri Schiavo's parents another opportunity to save their daughter's life."

"This is a complex case with serious issues," Bush said. "But in extraordinary circumstances like this, it is wise to always err on the side of life."

Justice Department lawyers also filed documents in federal court Monday supporting legal efforts to keep Schiavo alive, a senior department official said.

In the House, 47 Democrats joined 156 Republicans in voting for the bill following more than three hours of passionate debate.

The extraordinary session had supporters, primarily Republicans, arguing that the issue was Schiavo's "right to life," while a Democrat warned that passing the measure would "undermine over 200 years of jurisprudence."

Bob Schindler said he visited his daughter Monday in the Pinellas Park, Florida, hospice where she is a patient.

"I asked her if she was ready to take a little ride, and I told her that we were going to take her for a little trip and take her outside and get her some breakfast, and that got a big smile out of her face, so help me God," Schindler said.

"So, she seemed to be very pleased, and we're pleased, and we're very thankful for both the House and the Senate for passing this bill and literally saving Terri's life."

Michael Schiavo blasted the president and Congress for what he said was overstepping their bounds and trampling on citizens' private rights.

"I think it's an invasion to the American people when you make a private decision in a family matter," he said on CNN. "This is a sad day for Terri, and it's a sad day for every American in this country, and people should be outraged."

Terri Schiavo collapsed in her home in 1990 when her heart stopped briefly because of a possible potassium imbalance, halting the flow of oxygen to her brain and causing extensive damage.

The bitter legal debate has resulted in more than a dozen state court decisions, and it appeared to reach a climax with Friday's ruling. The U.S. Supreme Court later rejected the House's appeal to intervene.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother, issued a statement shortly after the House vote: "I thank the Congress for its swift action allowing Terri's parents to seek a federal review of this case. Certainly, an incapacitated person deserves at least the same protection afforded criminals sentenced to death."

But Michael Schiavo objected.

"This is about Terri Schiavo, not the government, not President Bush and Gov. Bush," he said. "They should be ashamed of themselves."

CNN's Ted Barrett, Bob Franken and Terry Frieden contributed to this report.

Story Tools
Subscribe to Time for $1.99 cover
Top Stories
CNN/Money: Ex-Tyco CEO found guilty
Top Stories
CNN/Money: Security alert issued for 40 million credit cards


International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise With Us About Us
   The Web     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.
Add RSS headlines.