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Florida court to reconsider comatose woman's case

TAMPA, Florida (CNN) -- In a move that prolongs the legal battle over the fate of a comatose Florida woman, a state appeals court Wednesday kicked the case back to a lower court to decide whether her feeding tube should be removed.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal denied allowing the "discontinuation of life-prolonging procedures" -- as sought by her husband, but fought by her parents -- to begin until at least Monday, July 23.

The lower court 14 months ago sided with the husband of Theresa Schiavo, 37, authorizing him to remove the feeding tube from his wife who has been in a vegetative state for more than a decade after suffering brain damage.


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Since then, Michael Schiavo has been embroiled in a legal battle with his wife's parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, who want their daughter to remain alive. The appeal court said the parents could pursue their claim in the lower court, even though it suggested the parents had a significant legal hurdle to overcome.

The parents had filed suit in a separate court against their son-in-law, and the judge in turn granted them a temporary injunction keeping their daughter alive.

The appeal court Wednesday reversed that decision, in part, because the Schindlers filed the motion on grounds they were the legal guardians "even though they know she is an adult, married daughter with an appointed legal guardian."

The court said the parents, as "an interested party," can challenge the decision to pull the feeding tube from their daughter. They have until Friday, July 20 to file a motion. But the court said the parents must prove:

--Mrs. Schiavo "would not have made the decision to withdraw life-prolonging procedures 14 months earlier when the final order was entered."

--Mrs. Schiavo would "make a different decision at this time based on developments subsequent to the earlier court order."

The appeals court said the Schindlers have not presented adequate evidence to support the temporary ruling keeping their daughter alive.

"At this time, the Schindlers have not seriously contested the fact that Mrs. Schiavo's brain has suffered major, permanent damage," the court said.

The court said a neurologist who had reviewed a CAT scan of Mrs. Schiavo's brain and an EEG has testified that most, if not all, of Mrs. Schiavo's cerebral cortex -- the portion of her brain that allows for human cognition and memory -- is either "totally destroyed or damaged beyond repair."

"Although it is conceivable that extraordinary treatment might improve some of the motor functions of her brain stem or cerebellum, the Schindlers have presented no medical evidence suggesting that any new treatment ... would allow her to understand her perceptions of sight and sound or to communicate or respond cognitively to those perceptions," the court said.

Earlier this year, the Florida and U.S. supreme courts turned down appeals by the parents, and the tubes were removed from their daughter. Days later, a Florida circuit judge ordered the tube be restored.


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