Schiavo case - Judge refuses to allow feeding tube to be reinserted

A request from the parents of Florida woman Terri Schiavo to reinsert her feeding tube has been rejected by a federal judge; this is a blow to attempts by the US Congress and the White House to prolong her life. Bob and Mary Schindler, Schiavo's parents, immediately appealed to the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta as their daughter went for a fourth day without nutrition or hydration.

US District Judge James Whittemore issued a 13-page ruling at dawn where he acknowledged the gravity of the consequences in denying the request for an emergency order to restore the feeding tube. Doctors say Schiavo, 41, would remain alive for one to two weeks without it.

Judge Whittemore said he was obliged to follow the law; the order could only be issued if the Schindlers demonstrated their case was likely to succeed in federal court, which they had not done in his view. He concluded that Theresa Schiavo's life and liberty interests were adequately protected by the extensive process already provided in the state courts.An extraordinary intervention from Congress, which interrupted its Easter recess to pass a special bill, has pushed the Schiavo case into the federal court.

The case has become a cause for the Christian right, anti-abortion activists and now politicians, with President George W Bush cutting short a Texas vacation to sign the law early on Monday.The bitter dispute has divided Schiavo's husband, Michael Schiavo and her parents. Schiavo has been in what state courts have accepted is a "persistent vegetative state" since suffering a cardiac arrest that starved her brain of oxygen in 1990. Her parents have fought for seven years in the courts to keep her alive, and their supporters reaction to this latest ruling has been one of anger and disappointment.

Scott McClellan, a White House spokesman travelling with Bush in New Mexico, says a different ruling would have been preferred but they would continue to stand on the side of defending life.Tennessee Republican and US Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, said he, too,was disappointed but hopeful of winning on appeal. Schiavo's husband, Michael Schiavo, is adamant she would not want to be kept alive in her condition and should be allowed to die; her parents argue that she responds to them and could recover. Her feeding has already been halted and restarted twice before amid frequent state court rulings and appeals and prior to the special legislation passed by Congress over the weekend, federal courts had refused to hear the case and returned it to state courts.

The Schindlers, who are Roman Catholics, argue their daughter's rights have been violated including the right to due process and to practice a religion.While all this is going on, banner waving activists in the state capital of Tallahassee, are putting pressure on the state legislature to approve a law that would allow Gov. Jeb Bush, President Bush's brother, to put Schiavo under his protection. The Florida Senate last week rejected a proposal to intervene in the case on a 21-16 vote, with nine Republicans joining Democrats. Since then Gov. Bush has turned up the heat. Randall Terry, a right-wing Christian activist and spokesman for the Schindlers, said he and others plan to remain in Tallahassee saying that there has to be a legislative solution and if the Senate passes a bill, (Jeb) Bush will take her into custody.

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