A seven-year legal battle was drawing to a tragic end for the parents of Terri Schiavo tonight, as last ditch efforts to have her feeding tube re-inserted were blocked yet again by the courts.
Bob and Mary Schindler have exhausted almost every avenue in their bid to keep their brain damaged daughter alive – a fight which has gripped the US and evolved into an unprecedented political storm.
The Supreme Court today rejected pleas to have the feeding tube reconnected. It was the fifth time it has refused to intervene in the case.
Just hours later Florida Circuit Judge George Greer ruled that the state could not legally take custody of the 41-year-old woman, now struggling through her sixth day without food or water.
He rejected allegations that Mrs Schiavo’s husband Michael had abused her as well as evidence from a Florida doctor who claimed she was not in a persistent vegetative state.
Florida Governor Jeb Bush claimed the case raised serious concerns and warranted immediate action.
But when his petition to take her into custody was denied there was only the slimmest of options left open to the Schindlers. An amended motion will be heard by Florida’s federal court, which has previously rejected their arguments, this evening.
Mr Schiavo, who has fought a seven-year legal battle against her parents, welcomed the Supreme Court ruling today.
His lawyer, George Felos, said: “We hope that that order will effectively end the litigation effort in this case.
“We believe it’s time for that to stop… and that Mrs Schiavo be able to die in peace.”
A spokesman for the Schindlers conceded there were no legal options left open to them and said the parents’ hope was dimming.
Spiritual advisor Paul O’Donnell said: “They’re very disappointed, they’re in shock, they can’t believe this is happening.”
President George Bush, who has also intervened in the case, was said to be disappointed with the Supreme Court ruling.
Demonstrators continued to urge Governor Bush to step in, claiming he had the power to take custody of someone who had been neglected without the authority of the courts.
Since Mrs Schiavo’s feeding tube was removed last Friday her family’s feud has developed into a political battle, played out before the nation at every level.
Twenty court rulings have sided with Mr Schiavo and one by one this week, the appeals courts have refused to intervene.
Doctors declared Mrs Schiavo to be in a persistent vegetative state after her heart stopped briefly in 1990 because of a chemical imbalance.