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Terri Schiavo Dies Amid Controversy

The case of Terri Schiavo, the American woman who died Thursday, 13 days after her feeding tube was removed, drew worldwide attention to the issues of the right to live and the right to die.

Terri Schiavo was 26-years-old when she collapsed and suffered severe brain damage. She spent the next 15 years kept alive by a feeding tube inserted into her stomach.

In 1998, her husband Michael Schiavo petitioned a court to remove the tube and end Terri's life. He convinced a court his wife would not want to live in what doctors call a "persistent vegetative state," conscious but unaware, and according to medical experts like Dr. Carlos Gomez, unable to feel. "They don't express hunger. They don't express thirst. They don't express pain."

Suzanne Vitadamo, Terri Schiavo's sister, left, Mary Schindler, Schiavo's mother, center, and Bob Schindler, Schiavo's father, right
But the request to allow Terri Schiavo to die started a legal battle between Mr. Schiavo and his wife's parents who said she did respond and tried to talk and that starving her to death was murder.

The battle involved not only the courts but also the executive branch: Florida Governor Jeb Bush, his brother, President George W. Bush, and the U.S. Congress. The Florida Supreme Court struck down a law that would have allowed Governor Bush to order doctors to feed Mrs. Schiavo. Another court denied the Governor's request to let the state take her into protective custody.

"From a personal perspective it just breaks my heart that we do not err on the side of life," said the governor.

All of her parent's appeals were rejected and Terri Schiavo's feeding tube was finally removed March 18.

One procedure both sides now want is an autopsy to resolve questions about the extent of her brain damage and whether the decision to pull her off life support was a correct one.