While Terri Schiavo lay dying in her hospice bed early today, the US Congress gave a boost to the hopes of the brain-damaged woman’s parents that her feeding tube would be reinserted.
As protesters and TV satellite trucks gathered outside the hospice, first the Senate and then the House passed a bill to let the woman’s parents ask a federal judge to prolong Schiavo’s life.
US President George Bush cut short a visit to his Texas ranch and returned to the White House to sign the measure early today.
An attorney for Schiavo’s parents had already filed a request for an emergency injunction with a federal appellate court to have her feeding tube reinserted. He also planned to make a similar request with the federal district court in Tampa.
“We are very, very, very thankful to cross this bridge. And we are very hopeful that the federal courts will follow the will of Congress and save my sister’s life,” said Suzanne Vitadamo, Terri Schiavo’s sister.
Schiavo’s husband, Michael Schiavo, said he was outraged that congressional leaders were intervening in the contentious right-to-die battle. He has battled for years with her parents over whether she should be permitted to die or kept alive through the feeding tube.
“I think that the Congress has more important things to discuss,” he told CNN yesterday, calling the move political and criticising House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who helped broker the congressional compromise.
A lawyer for Michael Schiavo said the bill could be found unconstitutional. “It is in our opinion an absolute attack on the notion that we have separation of powers between the co-equal branches of government,” attorney Hamden Baskin III told CNN.
Terri Schiavo’s father, Bob Schindler, visited his daughter late yesterday and said he noticed the effects of dehydration on her. He said she appeared to be getting tired, but eventually responded to his teasing by making a face at him.
“It tells us she’s still with us,” he said.
The 41-year-old woman’s feeding tube was removed on Friday on a Florida judge’s order.
Schiavo could linger for one or two weeks if the tube is not reinserted – as has happened twice before, once on a judge’s order and once after Governor Jeb Bush passed “Terri’s Law”, which was later declared unconstitutional.
Brian Schiavo, Michael’s brother, said he spent yesterday afternoon with his brother and Terri at the hospice, but Terri did not move or make any noises. “Anybody that thinks that she talks and responds, they need to have a mental health examination,” he said.