Father's 'grave concern' for Schiavo

As the life of brain-damaged Terri Schiavo hung by a thread on Tuesday, her father feared doctors might hasten her death with morphine, while her husband requested that an autopsy be performed after she dies to prove the extent of her incapacitation.

“He’s requested this very strongly,” Michael Schiavo’s lawyer, George Felos, told reporters. “He believes it’s important to have the public know the full and massive extent of the damage to Mrs Schiavo’s brain that occurred through the cardiac arrest in 1990.”

He said the autopsy request was forwarded to the Pinellas county medical examiner.

As a tough, seven-year legal battle to keep Terri alive exhausted its possibilities, Terri’s parents turned to prayers and called on Florida Governor Jeb Bush to intervene, as they worried that physicians may take matters into their own hands.

“I have a grave concern that they’ll expedite the process to kill her with an overdose of morphine,” Terri’s father, Bob Schindler, told reporters on Monday outside the Florida hospice where his daughter is a patient.

“She’s alive and she’s fighting like hell to live,” he added, remarking on his 41-year-old daughter’s “amazing, amazing endurance”. She was disconnected from her feeding tube on March 18.

Felos said Terri “has never been on a morphine drip”.
She received two small doses of five milligrams of morphine a week ago and on Sunday, but not for pain relief, he added without elaborating.

Terri, Felos said, is near death: her eyes are sunken, her respiration has quickened and she has stopped urinating since Sunday—when the kidneys fail, the body fills with toxins, coming closer to death.

The lawyer said Terri has three or four days left to live. She is calm and relaxed and shows no visible signs she is in pain, he added.

Bob Schindler, however, said that when he visited his daughter on Monday, she was “still showing facial expressions”—among other signs of interaction.

“She’s trying to talk but it’s very, very subdued,” Schindler said. “All we need, if it’s not too late, is for someone to save her.”

Schindler made his plea on Terri’s 11th day without food and water on Monday, and with experts saying her death could come at any time.

Terri was given what could be her last communion on Sunday as protesters opposed to allowing the woman die challenged police and blocked entry to the hospice.

After her husband gave permission for the communion, a drop of holy wine was placed on Terri’s tongue, but she could not receive even a tiny piece of the host because her mouth was so dry, said Father Tadeusz Malanowski, who administered the sacrament.

Michael Schiavo insists that his wife should be allowed to die, and that she did not want to be kept alive artificially. Doctors have said she is in a “persistent vegetative state”.

Her family insists she could improve if given proper treatment, but their legal efforts, including getting a special law passed to have the tube reinserted, have failed.

The battle has raged through Florida’s courts and legislature, but escalated after the United States Congress stepped in and passed an unprecedented Bill, quickly signed by President George Bush, allowing the case to be heard in federal court.

Since then, the family has suffered a string of court defeats, including one on Saturday, when a state judge rejected the family’s argument that Schiavo had tried to say “I want to live” before her feeding tube was removed.

Governor Bush, the US president’s brother, said on Monday he has exhausted his options in his efforts to save Terri.

“It just breaks my heart that we have not erred on the side of life,” he said on Monday, but reiterated that there is nothing within the law that he can do at this point.

“There is no means by which we can get involved more than we’ve already done,” the Florida governor said. “My guess is there is very little left for the government to do.”

Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defence Council, organiser of the keep-Terri-alive demonstrations outside the Pinellas Park hospice, travelled to Washington on Monday in a failed bid to get the US House of Representatives involved in the case.

The Schindler’s lawyer, David Gibbs, is practically out of hope.

“Right now, Terri is really in God’s hands,” he said.

“We are going to pray for a miracle,” said Bobby Schindler, Terri’s brother.—Sapa-AFP

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