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Schiavo's supporters push Bush to intervene

The governor says he's troubled by the brain-damaged woman's situation, but it's unclear if he has the legal right to get involved.

Published October 17, 2003

PINELLAS PARK - Terri Schiavo's weary parents kept vigil by their oldest child Thursday as they awaited word from the governor on a strategy to save her.

Activists pressuring Gov. Jeb Bush to intervene submitted to the governor's office several legal opinions from lawyers telling Bush he has the constitutional right to force doctors to resume feeding Mrs. Schiavo.

Late in the day, Bush told reporters that his lawyers were still working on a solution. But he admitted they have found nothing.

"If not, she's going to starve to death. I'm sorry, to me that's troubling," Bush said after a news conference on teenage drinking and drug use. "I just wish I could do something about this."

Legal experts, meanwhile, expressed doubt that Bush has any option to force doctors to reinsert the feeding tube removed from Mrs. Schiavo's stomach at 2 p.m. on Wednesday.

"In a nutshell, it really isn't the governor's official business," said University of Florida law professor Joseph W. Little. "There is absolutely nothing in the state constitution that gives him authority in this matter or a duty to do anything about it."

Professor Mike Allen, who teaches constitutional law at the Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, said a separation of powers prevents the governor's intervention.

"Maybe my view is a bit jaded," Allen said. "But I suspect a good portion of this is a public relations effort by the governor."

Mrs. Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, visited their 39-year-old daughter through much of the day, exhausted by the constant media attention.

"We're tired," Bob Schindler said in the morning. "We're just going to wait and see what happens."

As the parents wait, Mrs. Schiavo's husband, Michael Schiavo, has moved out of his Clearwater home along with his girlfriend and their 1-year-old child after death threats, said Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos.

Threats received by letter, phone and e-mail in recent days have been reported to authorities.

"We've gotten a lot of calls, mostly people blowing off steam," Felos said. "These threats, however, were viewed to be credible."

Felos also issued an invitation to Bush to visit with Mrs. Schiavo and her husband at Woodside Hospice. Bush's office has yet to respond.

"The governor seems to be under the misapprehension that Terri can be fed by mouth," Felos said. "That is not the case. If the governor isn't just using this case for political purposes and he's interested in the truth, we invite him to visit."

Michael Schiavo petitioned the Pinellas-Pasco courts in 1998 to remove his wife's feeding tube because he says she cannot recover from her vegetative state. The parents disagree, saying she might regain, the ability to eat and drink.

A judge sided with Michael Schiavo after a trial in 2000, at which he testified his wife told him several times during their marriage she would not want to be kept alive by artificial means.

Mrs. Schiavo has been severely brain damaged since she suffered cardiac arrest in 1990 from what doctors believe was a potassium imbalance.

- Times staff writer Alisa Ulferts contributed to this report.

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