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Effort to intervene for Schiavo falls short

A judge won't compel the governor to get involved, leaving Terri Schiavo's parents with no apparent place to turn.

By WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE, Times Staff Writer
Published October 18, 2003

PINELLAS PARK - A last-ditch legal maneuver to force Gov. Jeb Bush to intervene in Terri Schiavo's case failed Friday, leaving her parents with few apparent options to save their daughter's life.

Lawyers for Mrs. Schiavo's parents filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in Tallahassee, asking a Leon County judge to order Bush to intervene and force doctors to begin feeding Mrs. Schiavo again.

Supporters of Mrs. Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, say Bush has the duty and power under the state's Constitution to step in and prevent the starvation death of a disabled adult.

A writ of mandamus is a legal device to force a government entity to take action when it is deemed to be failing at its legal duty.

Leon County Circuit Court Judge Jonathan Sjostrom quickly rejected the petition. An identical petition later filed in the 1st District Court of Appeal was also rejected.

"There have been a lot of judge hours put in this case," said the Schindlers' attorney, Pat Anderson "And there is a natural reluctance on the part of judiciary to second-guess each other's work."

Bush's office said the governor's lawyers are looking for a way to force doctors to resume feeding Mrs. Schiavo.

"I think he was very hopeful that there might be something he could do," said Bush spokesman Jacob DiPietre. "But the simple fact is that there is a separation of powers here, and the governor does not have the power to overrule a court order."

Still, he said the governor's staff is still reviewing possibilities and soliciting ideas.

The Schindlers visited with their daughter through the day. Mrs. Schiavo's feeding tube was removed at 2 p.m. on Wednesday. She is expected to die within one to two weeks.

Mary Schindler provided a message to Michael Schiavo, Bush and judges connected to the case.

"I'm praying they never have to go through watching their son or daughter die a horrific, cruel death, slowly, minute by minute each day for 14 days," she said.

The Schindlers and supporters have long said that Mrs. Schiavo's death would be a cruel, painful starvation killing, something police wouldn't allow to be done to even a dog or cat.

But doctors say people don't understand the death process and that such deaths are painless for the patient.

"Most of the time these are very peaceful deaths," said Dr. Ronald Schonwetter, chief medical officer at LifePath Hospice in Tampa and director of geriatric medicine at the University of South Florida.

"The patients are very comfortable, and it's a very humane way to die," he said. "Our belief is that they do not experience any pain."

As time passes, Schonwetter said, Mrs. Schiavo will become more lethargic and eventually lapse peacefully into a coma.

Mrs. Schiavo has been severely brain-damaged since suffering cardiac arrest in 1990. Her husband, saying she has no cognitive function and cannot recover, petitioned the courts to remove her feeding tube in 1998.

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