Feeding tube pulled in Fla. coma case

By LES KJOS  |  Oct. 15, 2003 at 4:46 PM
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MIAMI, Oct. 15 (UPI) -- Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said he hopes the case of a 39-year-old Tampa Bay area woman who has been in a coma for 13 years will spur a positive debate on right-to-die issues.

That might be the only positive result of the tragic, bitter battle over Terri Schiavo's life between her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, and her husband, Michael Schiavo.

The Schindlers want to keep the woman alive and give her swallow therapy with the goal of some day eating on her own. Michael Schiavo said his wife wants to die and he wants to fulfill her wishes.

Michael Schiavo has apparently won. Her father said the feeding tube that has kept her nourished enough to stay alive was removed Wednesday afternoon at Woodside Hospice in Pinellas Park, Fla. She is expected to die in one or two weeks.

A few dozen right-to-life protesters demonstrated outside the hospice most of the afternoon.

Circuit Judge George Greer signed an order two weeks ago allowing the removal of the feeding tube.

A last-minute appeal to Bush to save her life holds out some hope for the parents but his attorneys have said previously the governor has no authority to overrule the courts in this kind of case.

Bob Schindler and his wife said they met with Bush for a half-hour, two hours before the feeding tube was pulled.

He said Bush promised to do anything he could "to turn things around," by working with his legal department.

"He will have his staff explore every possibility. He gave his word to us that he would pursue it and I believe what he told us," Bob Schindler told a news conference.

Bush did file a brief last week advocating keeping Terri Schiavo, 39, alive, but it wasn't enough.

Last Friday a federal court declined to intervene, ruling it was a state matter.

And Tuesday, the Florida 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected motions to keep the feeding tube in place and begin swallow therapy, and to disqualify Judge Greer.

Legal experts say any further appeals as Terry Schiavo slips toward death seem unlikely, although Bush is trying to do what he can.

"I feel horrible, for her, for her family, for her husband," Bush told reporters in Tallahassee, Fla., Tuesday. "As I understand it, she will starve to death and that's not an easy thing to accept, to be honest with you."

Doctors said she will feel no pain, and if there is any discomfort, she will be given medication to alleviate it.

The tube was attached to Terri Schiavo's stomach and provided water and a vitamin-enriched liquid at 8 a.m. and again at 8 p.m.

Mary Schindler said she believes her daughter can be saved.

"I've always thought there was hope. I would go in there and she'd respond to me," Mary Schindler said.

The Schindlers released videotapes they said showed that she reacted to her parents when they spoke to her despite a court order forbidding them to do so. Michael Schiavo had warned them against it, and said their visits with their daughter would be limited as a result.

Mary Schiavo was allowed into the hospice with an escort at the time of the removal of the tube. Michael Schiavo also was in the hospice.

Terri Schiavo has been in a coma since a heart attack 13 years ago. It left her without any oxygen for five minutes and the subsequent brain damage plunged her into the coma.

Michael Schiavo blamed a potassium imbalance for the heart problem.

Doctors, with a few exceptions, have testified she is in a persistent vegetative state.

Although there is no living will, Michael Schiavo said that in a conversation they had well before the heart attack, she had expressed opposition to be kept alive artificially if something happened.

Based on that, Michael Schiavo told CNN this week: "I think Terri's wish should be carried out. This is what she wanted. This is Terri's wish. Not anybody else's wish. Her wish."

Michael Schiavo went to court six years ago seeking to have the feeding tube removed and the Schindlers stepped in to oppose him almost immediately.

Terri Schiavo's feeding tube was removed once before -- in May 2001 -- but another judge intervened after 60 hours and ordered it reinstalled. It had no effect on her.

The two sides have accused each other of wanting to control $700,000 won in a malpractice suit in 1992. Half of that money has been spent on treatment and legal bills.

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