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    Doctors resume feeding Schiavo

    A judge makes the order so her parents can pursue a lawsuit against her husband, Michael.

    By WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE

    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 27, 2001


    ST. PETERSBURG -- In a dramatic decision reversing weeks of legal wrangling, a circuit judge late Thursday ordered doctors to resume feeding Terri Schiavo while her parents pursue a lawsuit against the woman's husband.

    photo
    [Times photo: Fred Victorin]
    Jim Eckert, lawyer for the Schindlers, filed the lawsuit Thursday in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court, to have Terri Schiavo's feeding resumed.
    Within minutes of the 8:30 p.m. order, doctors at the Pinellas Park nursing home where Schiavo lives resumed feeding her through a tube for the first time since 8 a.m. Tuesday.

    A lawsuit filed just hours before the ruling accuses Terri Schiavo's husband, Michael Schiavo, of committing perjury by saying his wife did not want to be kept on life support.

    With his ruling -- resuming feeding for a woman in a vegetative state since a heart attack 11 years ago -- Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Frank Quesada did what the U.S. Supreme Court and four other courts before him refused to do.

    "I don't think there is anything that's more final or irreparable than death," Quesada said.

    Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, who have fought for a decade to keep their daughter alive, had begun to lose hope.

    "God heard our prayers," Mr. Schindler said. "We really thought it was probably the end of the road. I'm not a Bible thumper. But this has got to be the work of God. He's here and He's alive and well."

    An attorney for Michael Schiavo hinted at a quick appeal before the 2nd District Court of Appeal, perhaps as soon as today.

    "It's obvious that the other side will go to any lengths and do whatever it takes to reverse all the previous courts' decisions," said George Felos.

    The latest development in this emotional legal odyssey came during a frantic day of maneuvering by both sides in a right-to-die case that has attracted national attention.

    The Schindlers' lawsuit says that Michael Schiavo's ex-girlfriend, Cyndi Shook, came forward recently and accused Schiavo of lying about his wife's wishes on life support.

    After Michael Schiavo called a radio station Tuesday about the case, Shook became angry and followed with her own call.

    The Schindlers say Shook, who dated Schiavo for six months in 1992, said that Michael Schiavo told her he had no idea what his wife's wishes were before her heart attack.

    In an affidavit, Bob Schindler said Shook quoted Michael Schiavo as saying: "How the hell do I know what to do with her. We never talked about this when we were married. We were young and this was never talked about."

    That statement, if true, runs counter to Schiavo's testimony in his legal quest to humanely end his wife's life, the Schindlers say.

    Earlier in the day, another Pinellas circuit judge, George Greer, refused a request by the Schindlers to resume the feeding because of new evidence.

    The judge ruled that more than a year had passed since his original decision ordering that Michael Schiavo be allowed to take his wife off life support and that a procedural rule barred new evidence at such a late date.

    But the Schindlers, working with their attorneys, Pat Anderson and Jim Eckert, made an end-run around that procedural roadblock by filing a separate lawsuit.

    That lawsuit, filed at 3:30 p.m., seeks unspecified damages from Michael Schiavo for inflicting against the Schindlers "extraordinary mental anguish, suffering and virtually total disruption of their lives."

    Then the Schindlers' attorneys filed a related motion for an emergency temporary injunction asking the judge to order the resumption of Terri Schiavo's feeding, saying that without the order, the Schindlers would suffer "irreparable harm."

    They asked that the injunction preventing removal of Schiavo's feeding tube be kept in place until the related civil litigation is resolved by the courts.

    Unless an appeals court reverses Quesada, the injunction will now assure that Schiavo is fed until further order by Quesada, or indefinitely.

    Shook, reached an hour after the ruling, said the Schindlers are taking her comments out of context.

    Shook says she recalls Michael Schiavo saying that he did not know what Terri Schiavo would have wanted him to do in her current condition: remain in a nursing home or move to her parents' home.

    But Shook says Schiavo was not talking specifically about whether his wife would have wanted to be on life support.

    "I never said, "Mike, did she want to be on life support?"' Shook told the St. Petersburg Times. "I don't have any information about her wishes. I cannot help (the Schindlers). I feel like they're grasping at a straw."

    The Schindlers' attorneys say their private investigator has thorough notes of her conversation with Shook. They plan to depose Shook today.

    "I'm not surprised she's backpedaling, because she's frightened of Michael Schiavo," said Pat Anderson, the Schindlers' attorney.

    Felos, Michael Schiavo's attorney, said his client denies the allegations by what he called a "disgruntled ex-girlfriend" and questioned why she hadn't spoken up during years of litigation.

    Felos said he hasn't decided about an appeal.

    "But I have significant doubts about whether the judge had jurisdiction to do what he did," he said.

    Michael Schiavo, who could not be reached for comment, and the Schindlers, once so close they lived together, have been feuding over Terri Schiavo's care for eight years. They have accused each other of trying to control her fate to get $700,000 she received in 1993 from a malpractice suit.

    After an emotional trial last year, Judge Greer agreed with Schiavo that his wife, who is 37, would not want her life extended by a feeding tube. The Schindlers say she would never say that and accused Schiavo and his family of fabricating conversations with her.

    The Schindlers say Schiavo wants their daughter to die so he can remarry and get the money. But he insists that Schiavo would not have wanted to live in her current condition, which doctors say cannot be reversed.

    On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene in the case and consider overruling a Pinellas circuit ruling allowing Schiavo to remove his wife's feeding tube.

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