Their options dwindling after losing two consecutive court appeals, Terri Schiavo’s parents vowed today to take their fight to the US Supreme Court as their brain-damaged daughter was in her fifth full day without a feeding tube.
Her father said she is “fading quickly".
In a 2-1 ruling early today, judges in Atlanta, Georgia, said the parents, who have battled with their son-in-law for years over the woman’s fate, “failed to demonstrate a substantial case on the merits of any of their claims” that Terri’s feeding tube should be reinserted immediately.
“There is no denying the absolute tragedy that has befallen Mrs. Schiavo,” the ruling by Judges Ed Carnes and Frank Hull said.
“We all have our own family, our own loved ones, and our own children. However, we are called upon to make a collective, objective decision concerning a question of law.”
Today’s ruling was the latest legal blow for Schiavo’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler. Doctors have said that their daughter, now 41, could survive one to two weeks without water and nutrients.
“It’s hard to put into words how we’re feeling right now,” Terri’s brother, Bobby Schindler, said. “My sister is in her fifth day, and it’s just hard to say.”
In his dissent, Judge Charles Wilson said Schiavo’s “imminent” death would end the case before it could be fully considered. “In fact, I fail to see any harm in reinserting the feeding tube,” he wrote.
The parents’ lawyer, Rex Sparklin, said the couple will appeal to the Supreme Court. “The Schindlers will be filing an appropriate appeal to save their daughter’s life,” he said.
The Schindlers said their daughter was ”fading quickly” and might die at any moment.
Howard Simon of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida said the ruling pointed out the limited role of government in these matters and the need for a living will “to keep politicians out of your personal life.”
“While I anticipate that the Supreme Court will have to decide whether to get into it, I do think we are coming to the end of this sad case,” he said.
The Schindlers have been locked for years in a battle with Schiavo’s husband over whether her feeding tube should be disconnected. State courts have sided with Michael Schiavo, who insists his wife told him she would never want to be kept alive artificially.
Michael Schiavo urged the court not to grant an emergency request to restore nutrition.
“That would be a horrific intrusion upon Mrs. Schiavo’s personal liberty,” said his lawyer, George Felos.
Terri Schiavo suffered brain damage in 1990 when her heart stopped briefly from a chemical imbalance believed to have been brought on by an eating disorder. Court-appointed doctors say she is in a persistent vegetative state with no hope of recovery.
Her parents argue that she could get better and that she would never have wanted to be cut off from food and water.
An emergency filing to the Supreme Court would go first to Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan appointee who has staked a moderate position on social issues.
Kennedy would have the option to act on the petition alone, although on previous emergency requests involving Schiavo he has referred the matter to the full nine-member court.
The Supreme Court’s history on right-to-die cases is pretty thin.
The Rev Pat Mahoney, a Schindler family supporter, acknowledged that their legal options have diminished and urged the state parliament to intervene.
“Let it be known to every voter in Florida, the fate of Terri Schiavo is in the Florida Senate’s hands,” he said.
The Schindlers said their daughter began “a significant decline” on Monday.
“While she still made eye contact with me when I spoke to her, she was becoming increasingly lethargic,” Bob Schindler said in the papers. “Terri no longer attempted to verbalise back to me when I spoke to her.”
Demonstrators who gathered outside Terri Schiavo’s hospice in Pinellas Park, Florida, decried the courts’ decisions. One woman was arrested for trespassing after trying to take Schiavo a cup of water.
“This is a clear-cut case of judicial tyranny,” said Tammy Melton, 37, a high school teacher.