The parents of the brain-damaged Florida woman at the center of a right to die controversy say she is now close to death after being without food or water for more than 12 days.
Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson threw his support behind Terri Schiavo's parents on Tuesday, as both sides in the dispute agreed to have an autopsy performed on Ms. Schiavo when she eventually dies.
Calling Terri Schiavo's impending death "an injustice," the Reverend Jesse Jackson visited Ms. Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, and their supporters on Tuesday in Pinellas Park, Florida, outside the hospice where Terri Schiavo is bedridden. Reverend Jackson, told reporters he believes Terri Schiavo's death is unnecessary.
"Without food or water for 12 days there are vital signs," he said. "She is being starved to death. She is being dehydrated to death, and that is inhumane. It is immoral and it is unnecessary. There is no rational reason for this to happen."
Terri Schiavo has been without food or water since March 18, when a Florida judge ruled in favor of her husband, Michael, who is her legal guardian. Mr. Schiavo had been seeking to have his severely brain damaged wife's feeding tube disconnected for more than a decade. He says his wife told him and others she never wanted to be kept alive by artificial means. Terri Schiavo suffered severe brain damage after a heart attack in 1990.
Court-appointed doctors say Terri Schiavo has been in a persistent vegetative state for years, and will never regain consciousness. Courts at both the state and federal level have upheld Michael Schiavo's right to disconnect the feeding tube that had been keeping his wife alive.
Last week the U.S. Congress passed emergency legislation allowing Bob and Mary Schindler to appeal their case in federal courts. However federal courts all the way up to Supreme Court, ruled against their appeal to re-attach their daughter's feeding tube.
Terri Schiavo's parents say their daughter never expressed any opinion about life support, and that she could regain some brain functions with intensive therapy. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Bob Schindler said his daughter is barely clinging to life.
"She looks pretty darn good under the circumstances, but you can see the impact of 12 days without food or water on her," he said. "I pray to God that she continues to have the strength to go on."
The Schindlers and Michael Schiavo have reached rare agreement about the need for an autopsy to be performed on Terri Schiavo when she eventually dies. Her parents, who at first opposed having an autopsy, now say they believe she suffered abuse at the hands of her husband and an autopsy could provide evidence of that. Mr. Schiavo denies the abuse charge. His lawyer, George Felos says Michael Schiavo believes an autopsy is necessary to disprove the notion that she could have recovered.
"He has requested this strongly," he said. "He believes it is important to have the public know the full and massive extent of the damage to Mrs. Schiavo's brain through the cardiac arrest in 1990."
Meanwhile, police made more arrests Tuesday at the hospice in Florida where Terri Schiavo is bedridden. Some supporters of the Schindlers have been attempting to enter the hospice with water for Terri Schiavo. A nearby elementary school also remained closed out of fear of public disturbances in the area.