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Last rites, cremation part of Schiavo battle

Lawyers for Terri Schiavo's parents file motions on several end-of-life issues.

By WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE, Times Staff Writer
Published March 1, 2005

CLEARWATER - Attorneys for Terri Schiavo's parents are hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.

Even as they fight to extend Schiavo's life beyond the March 18 date that her feeding tube is scheduled to be removed, lawyers also filed motions Monday on her last rites and on whether Schiavo will be cremated or buried.

Lawyer David Gibbs III, representing Schiavo's parents, asked the court for several days of total hearing time to argue numerous motions, including other filings to get Schiavo experimental treatment and to remove her husband as her guardian.

In all, about a dozen emergency motions were filed Monday, though Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge George Greer declined to hear several. Most of those he agreed to consider at a future hearing deal with end-of-life issues.

Greer has not yet scheduled a hearing date. He will consider all pending motions in one afternoon.

Gibbs said he will appeal Greer's decision against scheduling a motion on matters dealing with a number of things, including efforts to remove Michael Schiavo as his wife's guardian and obtaining experimental treatment for Terri Schiavo.

"Our goal is to do everything we can to defend the parents' position that, No. 1, Terri is not in a vegetative state, and No. 2, she should not be killed in this fashion," Gibbs said.

George Felos, an attorney for Michael Schiavo, dismissed the latest filings as a delay tactic.

"I think they're just trying to inundate the trial judge with a lot more paper and frivolous motions," Felos said.

Among the motions filed Monday that Greer has agreed to consider are those that would:

--Prevent Michael Schiavo from having his wife's remains cremated. He has previously indicated in court papers that he is considering cremation.

--Allow Schiavo, a Catholic, to receive the last rites of the church. Felos said Michael Schiavo has never barred his wife from receiving the last rites, though the parents dispute that.

--Allow select media to visit Schiavo with the family to "memorialize and celebrate her life and the unity of their family bond."

--Let Schiavo die at her parents' home rather than at a hospice.

--Allow Schiavo's feeding tube to be clamped shut rather than removed to provide for less trauma.

--Allow Schiavo's family free access to visit her as she dies, saying members were barred from visiting her the last time feeding was stopped in 2003. Felos said the family was free to visit her in 2003.

--Give the parents permission to videotape or photograph their daughter to preserve "precious memories."

--Appoint a medical witness to oversee the removal or clamping of Schiavo's feeding tube.

Schiavo has been in what some doctors call a vegetative state for 15 years. Her husband and parents have been battling in court over her fate for nearly seven years.

In other news Monday, Bishop Robert N. Lynch, head of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, issued a statement urging the two sides in the Schiavo case to come together to negotiate one last time to resolve their differences.

"I beg and pray that both sides might step back a little and allow some mediation in these final hours," Lynch said.

Last week, a Vatican cardinal known for his outspokenness said he opposed the removal of the feeding tube, the first time a Vatican official has spoken publicly about the case.

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