Judge rules in right-to-die case

A federal judge in Tampa, Florida, rejected a bid to reinsert the feeding tube sustaining the life of a brain-damaged woman whose plight has sparked an emotional debate over the “right to die”.

The parents of 41-year-old Terri Schiavo sought an emergency order in Florida on Monday to reattach the feeding tube keeping their daughter alive, three days after her husband had a Florida state judge order it removed, starting a process that could lead to her death within two weeks.

Federal district court Judge James Whittemore ruled that Schiavo’s parents did not prove that Florida courts had violated their daughter’s rights by ordering her feeding tube to be disconnected.

Schiavo’s parents will now likely take their case to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Georgia, lawyers said.

Whittemore took on the controversial case after President George Bush cut short a holiday in Texas to rush back to Washington on Sunday to sign into law an emergency Bill passed by Congress early on Monday, allowing Schiavo’s parents to take the case to federal court.

The attorney for Schiavo’s husband, Michael, argued that removing the device would go against her wishes to end her life instead of being kept alive artificially.

Schiavo has been in a persistent vegetative state for the past 15 years and her feeding tube was removed on Friday. She could die in about two weeks.

If the parents win the case, Schiavo will be rushed from her hospice home to a hospital for rehydration and surgery to reconnect the tube.

Schiavo has surged to the forefront of the United States political scene.

Congressional leaders brushed aside concerns of overstepping their constitutional limits and government intrusion into family affairs with the passage of the Bill.

“The legal issues, I grant everyone, are complicated, but the moral ones are not,” said Tom DeLay, leader of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. “Terri Schiavo is not brain dead; she talks and she laughs and she expresses happiness and discomfort.”

“In cases like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws and our courts should have a presumption in favour of life,” Bush said in a statement.

Schiavo has been kept alive since a 1990 heart failure damaged her brain.
Doctors have said in a long series of court battles over the case that Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state, unable to speak or help herself.

Michael Schiavo says his wife told him prior to her accident that she would never want to be kept alive artificially.

But her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, insist their daughter could improve with proper treatment and have questioned Michael Schiavo’s fitness to serve as his wife’s guardian.—Sapa-AFP

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