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Schiavo's parents rebuffed by judge

A federal judge tells Terri Schiavo's mother and father to refile for a restraining order to keep her on a feeding tube.

GRAHAM BRINK
Published September 3, 2003

TAMPA - A federal judge turned away a request Tuesday seeking his intervention in a court fight between the parents and husband of Terri Schiavo, a woman at the center of a legal battle over whether she should be kept alive.

Bob and Mary Schindler filed the request for a temporary restraining order in hopes that the judge would bar Schiavo's husband, Michael Schiavo, the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast and Morton Plant Hospital from refusing to feed or properly medicate their daughter.

U.S. District Judge Richard Lazzara said in court that even if he granted the request, it did not have a substantial likelihood of becoming permanent, a requirement for granting a temporary restraining order.

Lazzara, quoting an appeals court ruling, called the written filings the "quintessential shotgun pleadings."

He also questioned whether he even had the jurisdiction to grant the requests.

Lazzara, however, gave lawyers for the Schindlers 10 days to refile more carefully refined pleadings.

He warned them to do so "cautiously," as he was not swayed by several of their arguments.

George Felos, attorney for Michael Schiavo, said the Schindlers' request had no merit given the history of the case and they did not have any grounds to refile.

"I think it is obvious ... that this isn't even a well-disguised attempt to overturn six years" of state rulings, Felos said.

Mrs. Schiavo's parents have battled Michael Schiavo in the courts for several years, and say their daughter's condition might improve with treatment. Court-appointed doctors say her condition is irreversible.

Michael Schiavo has said his wife would not want to have her life extended by artificial means, given her brain damage. A state judge ruled in 2000that life support should be removed.

A hearing is scheduled for Sept. 11 to set a date for removing the feeding tube.

Once the tube is removed, Mrs. Schiavo is expected to die in 10 to 14 days.

The parents say Mrs. Schiavo has been able to eat Jello on her own, and they want to be able to feed her by hand. Her husband says she cannot feed herself, and would not be able to swallow the food properly, which could lead to serious complications or death.

Pat Anderson, one of the Schindler's lawyers, said they felt compelled to file the hastily written request when Mrs. Schiavo was sent to the hospital on Saturday and "nearly died." The Schindlers also wanted the judge to grant them access to their daughter's medical records.

"Terri was in crisis," Anderson said. "She is still very sick."

Michael Schiavo said the hospice called him on Saturday and told him his wife was having troubles with her lungs and airways. He said he told them to transfer her to the hospital.

She was admitted, X-rayed and treated for blockages in her air passages, he said.

She then returned to the hospice center. He said she did not come close to dying, and there was no need to keep her at the hospital any longer.

- Graham Brink can be reached at 226-3365 or brink@sptimes.com

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