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Schiavo parents appeal to U.S. Supreme Court

Gov. Bush's effort returns to court that ordered tube removal
Mary Schindler makes a brief statement to reporters Wednesday in Pinellas Park, Florida.
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The battle lines over Terri Schiavo aren't as clear as they appear.

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Timeline: Schiavo case

• On the Scene:  Mental states
• CNN Access:  Alan Dershowitz
• Interactive: The feeding tube
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• FindLaw:  Latest rulingexternal link
Who should decide Terri Schiavo's fate?
Her parents
Her husband
Jeb Bush

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- A lawyer for Mary and Bob Schindler -- who are fighting to have their daughter Terri Schiavo's feeding tube reinserted -- filed an appeal late Wednesday with the U.S. Supreme Court, which in the past has refused to hear the case.

The parents' appeal to the nation's highest court came hours after a federal court in Atlanta twice rejected appeals seeking reinsertion of the brain-damaged woman's feeding tube.

Meanwhile, Florida authorities filed a new request in state court to intervene, arguing that new information suggests Schiavo's condition might have been misdiagnosed.

The Florida Senate rejected 18-21 a bill Wednesday that would restart food and hydration for Schiavo.

The petition by the Florida Department of Children and Families said a neurologist who examined Schiavo's medical records found she was "most likely in a state of minimal consciousness," rather than the persistent vegetative state previous doctors have diagnosed.

"This new information raises serious concerns and warrants immediate action," Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told reporters. (Full story)

The state agency asked Judge George Greer to order Schiavo's feeding tube reinserted, and Greer said he would rule by noon Thursday.

On Wednesday, the judge barred Florida authorities from removing the brain-damaged woman from the hospice.

Since 1998, the Schindlers have been mired in court battles with their daughter's husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo, who contends his wife would not have wanted to be kept alive in her current condition.

Terri Schiavo's feeding tube was removed Friday on Greer's order. It has been removed twice before, most recently in 2003.

That year, Gov. Bush pushed a law through the state legislature that authorized the woman's feedings to resume, six days after a court stopped them. The Florida Supreme Court later ruled the law unconstitutional.

Terri Schiavo collapsed in her home in 1990, suffering from heart failure that led to severe brain damage. Michael Schiavo said his wife suffered from bulimia that resulted in a potassium deficiency, triggering the heart failure.

Court rulings have held that Michael Schiavo is his wife's legal guardian and has the right to make decisions regarding her care.

'Sad case'

In 2002, Greer rejected arguments from doctors chosen by Terri Schiavo's parents that she was not in a persistent vegetative state.

Outside Terri Schiavo's hospice in Pinellas Park, Florida, on Wednesday, Mary Schindler pleaded for her daughter.

"When I close my eyes at night, all I can see is Terri's face in front of me, dying. Starving to death," she said. "Please. Someone out there. Stop this cruelty. Stop the insanity. Please let my daughter live."

From Texas, President Bush called the situation "an extraordinary and sad case."

"I believe that in a case such as this, the legislative branch, the executive branch, ought to err on the side of life, which we have," Bush said. "And now we'll watch the courts make their decisions."

The president was referring to a bill he signed early Monday that transferred jurisdiction of the case from the Florida state court to a federal court. (Full story)

The next day, a federal judge in Tampa, Florida, denied the parents' emergency request to have the feeding tube restored, and the appellate panel upheld that decision Wednesday.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Wednesday that there are no other legal options left for the Bush administration.

'A question of law'

About 2 a.m. Wednesday, a three-judge panel on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 against the Schindlers' emergency request to restore their daughter's feeding tube.

The Schindlers' attorney, David Gibbs, then asked for an expedited rehearing from the full court's 12 judges; that effort was rejected by a 10-2 vote.

"We agree that the plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate a substantial case on the merits of any of their claims," judges Ed Carnes and Frank Hull wrote in their majority opinion for Wednesday's first ruling.

"There is no denying the absolute tragedy that has befallen Mrs. Schiavo," the ruling said. "However, we are called upon to make a collective, objective decision concerning a question of law."

In a strongly worded dissent, Judge Charles Wilson said refusing the parents' appeal frustrates Congress' intent, "which is to maintain the status quo by keeping Theresa Schiavo alive until the federal courts have a new and adequate opportunity to consider the constitutional issues."

For the third time in as many days, the Justice Department filed federal court documents in support of the Schindlers' efforts.

Calling the neurologist's claims Wednesday "shocking new medical developments," Gibbs told reporters his office was preparing for an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court has declined three times in the past to become involved in the matter.

Protesters arrested

Protesters who want Schiavo's feeding tube reinserted have gathered outside her hospice in Florida for several days.

Sheriff's deputes arrested about a dozen people Wednesday for crossing police lines, including a father and three of his children -- ages 14, 12 and 10.

The protest Wednesday was an organized civil demonstration coordinated with police, and the arrests occurred without incident.

Before the Florida Senate voted down the latest bill Wednesday, the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, who has been speaking on the Schindlers' behalf, challenged Florida Senate President Tom Lee.

"Let it not be said that Terri was starved with a Republican majority in the [state] House, the Senate and the Governor's Mansion," he said.

Kathy Mears, a spokeswoman for Lee, said the senator's "conscience is very clear on how he's acted on this issue."

The bill would have prohibited the revocation of food and water from any patient in a persistent vegetative state who had not completed a living will.

Some of the activists supporting the Schindlers were heading to the state Capitol late Wednesday afternoon to lobby again for Schiavo.

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