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Lawyers Seek to Replace Feeding Tube in Brain Damaged US Woman

Lawyers are in the U.S. federal court in the Florida city of Tampa, arguing the fate of a brain-damaged woman, whose case has grabbed national attention. Early Monday, the U.S. Congress passed emergency legislation allowing federal courts to reopen the case. Last week, a Florida state judge ruled that a feeding tube keeping Terri Schiavo alive could be removed.

Lawyers for Terri Schiavo's parents rushed to federal court on Monday to petition to have her feeding tube re-inserted. The tube was removed last Friday, after a state judge ruled in favor of her husband, Michael Schiavo, who has been seeking to remove the feeding tube for several years.

She has been in what doctors call a persistent vegetative state for nearly 15 years, after her heart temporarily stopped beating, possibly due to an eating disorder.

Emergency legislation allowing Ms. Schiavo's parents to petition in federal courts to keep their daughter alive was passed early Monday morning by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Bush.

Leading the fight in Congress to keep Ms. Schiavo alive was House Majority leader Tom DeLay. However, many opposition Democrats opposed Congress' involvement in the case. "Her mouth has been parched and her hunger pains have been throbbing. If we do not act, she will die," he said

Mr. DeLay was opposed by Democratic Congressman Robert Wexler. "This Congress seeks to replace and substitute our judgment, even though not a single one of us, as far as I know, has ever diagnosed Mrs. Schiavo, nor do we have the medical expertise to do so," he said.

Ms. Schiavo's husband, Michael, who is her legal guardian, has been fighting her parents in Florida courts about whether she should be kept alive. Ms. Schiavo's parents say their daughter's changing facial expressions are not involuntary, as most medical experts say, but rather evidence of cognition, and even emotion.

Her feeding tube was removed on Friday, but experts say it could take a week or longer for her to die.