Sunday, October 19, 2003

PINELLAS PARK, Fla. (AP) — The Roman Catholic priest of a brain-damaged woman whose feeding tube was removed this week tried to give her a final communion Saturday but was refused entry by police officers guarding the entrance to the hospice.

Bob and Mary Schindler, the parents of Terri Schiavo, were joined by Monsignor Thaddeus Malinowski when they told officers they wanted to administer the Catholic rite of Viaticum, the last communion for a Catholic before death.

Police officers at the hospice told the family the rite would violate a doctor’s order that nothing be placed in her mouth, to prevent choking and aspiration.

Father Malinowski, a retired priest, told the officers he would use “a small piece of the wafer and dilute it with water before giving it to her. It’s a very important part of her faith.”

George Felos, an attorney for her husband, Michael Schiavo, said in a statement that Father Malinowski administered “spiritual communion” commonly given to patients who are unable to receive the host by mouth.

Relatives and supporters who oppose Mr. Schiavo’s order to cut off her nourishment held a vigil outside the hospice where the tube was disconnected Wednesday.

Her sister, Suzanne Carr, renewed a call for help from Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, saying, “You have the power to intervene on Terri’s behalf. This is more important and beyond politics and bad press.”

Feedings have been keeping Mrs. Schiavo alive since 1990, when she suffered brain damage following a heart attack. The husband’s doctors say she is in a persistent vegetative state with no hope of recovery, but her parents have filed affidavits from other doctors who believe she has mental abilities and can be rehabilitated.

Two state courts rejected attempts by the parents Friday to have the feeding tube reinserted.

Mrs. Schiavo is expected to live one to two weeks without food. She was 26 years old when a potassium imbalance stopped her heart. She went for 10 minutes without oxygen and was left severely brain-damaged.

Mr. Schiavo collected more than $1 million in medical-malpractice claims against doctors who failed to diagnose the chemical imbalance.

The Schindlers say their son-in-law said nothing about any wishes of his wife not to be kept alive artificially until he stood to inherit her medical trust fund. Mr. Schiavo is now living with a girlfriend who is pregnant with their second child.

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