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    Terri Schiavo's life, case enter final chapter

    The state's high court won't step in. Only a federal judge can keep her feeding tube from being removed.

    By ANITA KUMAR

    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 19, 2001


    photo
    Michael Schiavo
    photo
    Terri Schiavo
    Despite her parents' passionate pleas, Terri Schiavo's feeding tube will be removed Friday unless a federal judge steps in at the last minute.

    In a one-page order dated Wednesday, the Florida Supreme Court refused to intervene in the St. Petersburg right-to-die case that has garnered national publicity, essentially bringing it to its final chapter.

    "(I) find it hard to believe . . . that they would turn their back and not make any attempt to discover the truth," said Bob Schindler, Mrs. Schiavo's father.

    Mrs. Schiavo's parents plan to file a motion today that asks the U.S. District Court in Tampa to stop their son-in-law from removing life support and force a circuit judge to hold a new trial.

    Michael Schiavo has court permission to remove his wife's feeding tube at 1 p.m. Friday.

    Schiavo, who has been engaged to another woman for five years, was pleased and grateful to learn the court's decision, his attorney George Felos said. Schiavo could not be reached for comment.

    Mrs. Schiavo, who has spent 11 years in a persistent vegetative state, lives at a Hospice of the Florida Suncoast facility. Felos said she will not feel any pain after the tube is removed, drifting into a comalike state before dying within one to two weeks.

    photo
    [Times photo: Scott Keeler]
    Bob and Mary Schindler plan to file a motion today that asks the U.S. District Court in Tampa to stop their son-in-law from removing life support and force a circuit judge to hold a new trial.
    But the Schindlers' attorney, Jim Eckert, said Mrs. Schiavo would suffer a horrible death and immense pain. "We would not do this to a dog," he said. "I would not wish this on my worst enemy."

    Felos declined to say when or who would remove the tube, but did say that the Schindlers will have time to say goodbye.

    The Schindlers' attorneys will seek an injunction today in federal court, arguing that their daughter was denied her right to have a lawyer represent her -- not her husband or parents -- at the trial last year.

    "I am disappointed that these judges are willing to starve Terri to death without giving her the opportunity to have a fair trial where she would have her individual legal representation," Schindler said.

    After an emotional trial last year, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge George Greer agreed with Michael Schiavo that Mrs. Schiavo would not want her life extended by a feeding tube. That decision was upheld by the 2nd District Court of Appeal.

    A guardian ad litem, a lawyer representing Mrs. Schiavo, was appointed by a judge before the trial to review the situation. He wrote a report to the judge and testified at the trial but was not there to represent her at the trial.

    Felos called the federal injunction "frivolous and harassing" and said the Schindlers could have asked for a guardian ad litem to be present at the trial but did not. Pat Anderson, the Schindlers' attorney, said the judge should have known to appoint one.

    "We don't put people to death in this country when they have no attorney," Anderson said.

    Mrs. Schiavo, now 37, collapsed at her St. Petersburg home on Feb. 25, 1990. Her heart stopped beating, and she was deprived of oxygen for five minutes.

    Doctors say she is unaware of what is happening around her, that her motions and sounds are based on reflex only and that she will never improve. Her parents dispute that, saying she responds to sounds and sights.

    The Schindlers and Schiavo have accused each other of trying to control Mrs. Schiavo's fate to get $700,000 she received in 1993 from a malpractice suit.

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