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Brain-Damaged Florida Woman Given Last Rites

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Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged woman at the center of a legal controversy in the United States, has been given last rites and Easter communion, at her hospice in the U.S. state of Florida.  Ms. Schiavo's parents have given up legal appeals to keep her alive.

Both Federal and Florida State courts repeatedly denied motions last week by Bob and Mary Schindler, the parents of Terri Schiavo, to re-attach their daughter's feeding tube. The Schindlers have now gone into seclusion to await their daughter's death, and have appealed to their supporters to suspend public demonstrations in front of the hospice where she is bedridden.

On Monday, the Schindler's spiritual advisor and defacto spokesman, Paul O'Donnell, a Roman Catholic Franciscan monk, told reporters he believes Terri Schiavo's death is not imminent.

"Everyone is willing to write this woman's obituary except one person, and that is Terri Schiavo herself. She is alert, she is awake and she is fighting for her life," Paul  O'Donnell said.

The feeding tube keeping Terri Schiavo alive was disconnected more than 10 days ago after years of litigation between her husband Michael, who is her legal guardian, and her parents. Mr. Schiavo's position, that his wife told him and others that she did not want to be kept alive by artificial means, has been consistently upheld by both federal and state courts.

On Monday, Paul O'Donnell, made another plea to Florida Governor Jeb Bush to place Terri Schiavo in protective custody, something Florida courts have forbidden him to do.

"Bob and Mary Schindler are begging Governor Bush to step in and take custody of Terri. We have heard that he has the legal authority," he said.

Speaking at a recent impromptu news conference in his office, Governor Bush said he had done all he could do to keep Terri Schiavo alive and that his powers are limited.

"They [Schindlers] are acting on their heart and I fully appreciate their sentiments and the emotions that go with this. But, I have consistently said I cannot go beyond what my powers are. I am not going to do it," he said.

George Felos, the lawyer for Michael Schiavo says his client is also in seclusion. Both Ms. Schiavo's parents and her husband are keeping a death vigil at her bedside, but they visit her at different time to avoid conflict. Mr. Felos told reporters he was surprised the case went on for more than a decade, but that he believes it was about a fundamental right of Americans to live and die as they choose.

"I firmly believe in the right of individuals to make their own medical treatment choices, and that this is not an area where the state has an interest in being involved," he said. "I certainly never expected this case would take as long as it did but I have always felt that we would be letting Terri down if we did not carry it through and have her wishes carried out."

Police have arrested a number of protesters over the past several days at the hospice where Terri Schiavo is spending her last hours. Federal law enforcement authorities have detained several individuals who allegedly threatened the lives of Michael Schiavo and the Florida judge who ruled to have Terri Schiavo's feeding tube disconnected.

On Monday, local authorities in Pinellas Park, Florida canceled the re-opening of an elementary school that is near the hospice, saying they were worried about possible disturbances in the area.

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