- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 24, 2005

The family of Terri Schiavo appealed to the Supreme Court last night after being turned down twice yesterday by a federal appeals court, racing against the clock to save her life.

The Florida state Senate defeated a last-minute bill aimed at preventing Mrs. Schiavo’s death by starvation and dehydration.

“This is an extraordinary and sad case,” President Bush said, after a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta yesterday turned down the plea of Mrs. Schiavo’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, to have a feeding tube reinserted.

The Schindlers next appealed to the full circuit court but were turned down again, leaving the U.S. Supreme Court, which has declined to step into the case in the past, as their court of the last resort.

In the emergency filing that will first be considered by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the Schindlers say their daughter faces an unjust death without strong proof of her consent, violating her due process and religious freedom.

The filing also argues that Congress, which quickly passed a bill last weekend that gave federal courts authority to review the case anew, intended to require Mrs. Schiavo’s tube to be reinserted at least temporarily — a position supported by a filing earlier yesterday from U.S. House attorneys.

“When I close my eyes at night, all I can see is Terri’s face in front of me, dying, starving to death,” Mrs. Schindler said outside her daughter’s hospice in Pinellas Park, Fla. “Please, someone out there, stop this cruelty. Stop the insanity. Please let my daughter live.”

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush raced to help, urging the state Legislature to pass legislation to save Mrs. Schiavo’s life, and indicating that if necessary, the state of Florida would take Mrs. Schiavo, who has been without food or water since Friday, into protective custody.

“There are several avenues being pursued,” Jeb Bush said yesterday afternoon, before the Florida Senate defeated on a 21-18 vote a bill to bar patients being denied food and water unless they expressed their wishes in writing, which Mrs. Schiavo did not.

Jeb Bush noted that a prominent neurologist contradicts the diagnoses that Mrs. Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state, saying instead she is in a state of “minimal consciousness.”

“This new information raises serious concerns and warrants immediate action,” the governor said.

The custody request was heard by Judge George Greer, who has presided over the case for several years and consistently refused the Schindlers’ attempts to save their daughter. Judge Greer planned to decide by noon today on whether the case would go forward.

The 41-year-old Mrs. Schiavo suffered cardiac arrest and brain damage in 1990, but can breathe on her own. At the insistence of her husband, Michael, the feeding tube was removed Friday.

A White House spokesman said there was little else that President Bush can do.

“There really are not other legal options available to us,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

The president defended the emergency legislation that Congress enacted over the weekend and he signed in the middle of the night, which required the federal courts to hear the Schindlers’ plea.

“I believe that in a case such as this, the legislative branch, the executive branch ought to err on the side of life, which we have. And now we’ll watch the courts make its decisions. But we looked at all options from the executive branch perspective,” President Bush said.

Mrs. Schiavo’s brother, Bobby Schindler, joined other religious leaders and activists lobbying the Florida Legislature, and Jeb Bush yesterday in Tallahassee, Fla.

“Governor Bush, you may be Terri’s last hope,” said the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition.

The Schindlers argue that their daughter’s rights are being violated and that she needs more tests and therapy, which her husband has denied her. Her husband, who now has two children with a woman he describes as his fiancee, says his wife never wanted to live hooked up to machines. Her parents say her husband is mistaken and Mrs. Schiavo, a Roman Catholic, would not have made such a decision. She is not on a respirator or other life-support machine.

Federal legislators who supported the aggressive congressional action expressed anger at the federal courts.

“We asked the courts to take a new look at Terri’s case, and they obviously have not done this,” said Rep. Joe Pitts, Pennsylvania Republican. “Instead, they have abandoned her humanity over an issue of legality. No person’s right as a husband or friend or family member is more sacred than an individual’s right to live, certainly not when a husband’s actions are as morally questionable as Mr. Schiavo’s in this case.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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