- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 29, 2005

PINELLAS PARK, Fla. (AP) — The Rev. Jesse Jackson prayed with the parents of Terri Schiavo yesterday, the 12th day the brain-damaged woman has gone without food and water, and joined conservatives in calling for state lawmakers to order her feeding tube reinserted.

The former Democratic presidential candidate was invited by Mrs. Schiavo’s parents to meet with activists outside the hospice. His arrival was met with applause.

“I feel so passionate about this injustice being done, how unnecessary it is to deny her a feeding tube, water, not even ice to be used for her parched lips,” he said. “She is being starved to death, she is being dehydrated to death. That’s immoral and unnecessary.”

Mary Schindler, Mrs. Schiavo’s mother, said she “wanted the Reverend Jackson here for moral support.”

Mrs. Schiavo’s husband, Michael, insists he is carrying out her wishes by having the feeding tube pulled.

Mrs. Schindler later made a terse but emotional appeal to her estranged son-in-law and girlfriend, Jodi Centonze, who have two children, born long after Mrs. Schiavo’s collapse.

“Michael and Jodi, you have your own children. Please, please give my child back to me,” she said.

George Felos, the husband’s attorney, defended the treatment of Mrs. Schiavo.

“Obviously, the parents and the siblings are desperate. Desperation may lead to different perceptions,” he told CNN. “I can only tell you what I’ve seen, and Terri is dying a very peaceful, cared-for death.”

Bob Schindler described his daughter as “failing” after his visit yesterday.

“She still looks pretty darn good under the circumstances,” Mr. Schindler said. “You can see the impact of no food and water for 12 days. Her bodily functions are still working. We still have her.”

Mr. Jackson said he asked Mr. Schiavo for permission to see the brain-damaged woman but was denied.

Also yesterday, the Schindlers accused Mr. Schiavo of denying his Catholic wife Holy Communion, contrary to church teaching on the spiritual care of the dying.

Brother Bobby Schindler told reporters in Florida that when he and Monsignor Thaddeus Malanowski went to the hospice yesterday, they were told Mr. Schiavo had barred the sacrament, which is administered to the dying as “Viaticum.”

Mr. Schindler said three policemen told the monsignor that if he tried to administer Communion, as he did Easter Sunday by placing a drop of consecrated wine on Mrs. Schiavo’s mouth, “he would be arrested immediately.”

“Viaticum is a fundamental right of every dying Catholic,” said canon lawyer Pete Vere, citing Canon 921, which says that “Christ’s faithful who are in danger of death … are to be strengthened by Holy Communion as Viaticum.”

The canon also strongly recommends that the sacrament be received daily while “the danger of death persists,” said Mr. Vere, who called Mr. Schiavo’s denial “absolutely diabolical.”

“She is being inhibited by an estranged husband who either is not aware of her canonical rights, is trying to minimize them or is ignoring them completely,” Mr. Vere told The Washington Times.

During Mr. Jackson’s visit, a man was tackled to the ground by officers when he tried to storm into the hospice, police said.

He became the 47th protester arrested since the feeding tube was removed March 18. The man had two bottles of water with him, but did not reach the hospice door, police said.

Besides appearing with the Schindlers, Mr. Jackson telephoned black legislators in a last-ditch effort to bring back a bill that would prohibit severely brain-damaged patients from being denied food and water if they didn’t express their wishes in writing.

Lawmakers rejected the legislation earlier this month and appeared unlikely to reconsider it.

State Sen. Gary Siplin, a Democrat, said he told Mr. Jackson the issue had been “thoroughly discussed.” Senate Democratic leader Les Miller added, “I have voted. It’s time to move on.”

The chief Republican sponsor of the measure, state Sen. Daniel Webster, said he knew of no changed votes and that Mr. Jackson’s efforts may have come too late.

“It would have been helpful if he had done that a little earlier,” Mr. Webster said.

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