A federal appeals court early Wednesday agreed to consider a petition by Terri Schiavo’s parents for a new hearing on whether to reconnect their severely brain-damaged daughter’s feeding tube.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled without comment on Schiavo’s 12th day without nourishment. Last week, the same court twice ruled against Schiavo’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, who are trying to keep her alive.
In seeking a new hearing late Tuesday, attorneys for Schiavo’s parents argued that the District Court “committed plain error when it reviewed only the state court case and outcome history.”
Now, the court will consider the request for a new hearing based on the facts of the case, rather than whether previous Florida court rulings have met legal standards under state law.
There was no time frame for the court to consider the motion, but the Schindler’s attorneys asked to have the tube reinserted immediately “in light of the magnitude of what is at stake and the urgency of the action required.”
The ruling was a rare legal victory for the Schindlers, whose appeals have been repeatedly rejected in state and federal courts.
Anita Fanshaw, 43, one of about 10 protesters outside Schiavo’s hospice in Pinellas Park, Fla., praised the court’s latest decision.
“God has a way of making things work,” she said.
Christine Marriott, 43, who heard of the court order on TV and rushed from her Seminole home back the hospice, said the ruling gave her hope.
“There’s a chance for a miracle,” Marriott said. “Anything positive is a breath of life.”
Attorneys for the Schindlers and Schiavo’s husband, Michael Schiavo, didn’t immediately return phone messages early Wednesday.
Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube was removed March 18 on a court order sought by her husband, who contends she wouldn’t want to be kept alive artificially.
Doctors have said Terri Schiavo, 41, would probably die within a week or two of the tube being removed. She suffered catastrophic brain damage in 1990 when her heart stopped for several minutes because of a chemical imbalance apparently brought on by an eating disorder.
Bob Schindler described his daughter as “failing” following his visit Tuesday.
“She still looks pretty darn good under the circumstances,” Schindler said. “You can see the impact of no food and water for 12 days. Her bodily functions are still working. We still have her.”
Federal courts were given jurisdiction to review Schiavo’s case after Republicans in Congress pushed through unprecedented emergency legislation aimed at prolonging Schiavo’s life. But federal courts at two levels rebuffed the family.
On Tuesday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson prayed with the Schindlers and joined conservatives in calling for state lawmakers to order her feeding tube reinserted.
The former Democratic presidential candidate was invited by Schiavo’s parents to meet with activists outside Schiavo’s hospice. His arrival was greeted by some applause and cries of “This is about civil rights!”
“I feel so passionate about this injustice being done, how unnecessary it is to deny her a feeding tube, water, not even ice to be used for her parched lips,” he said. “This is a moral issue and it transcends politics and family disputes.”
Mary Schindler later made a terse but emotional appeal to Michael Schiavo: “Michael and Jodi, you have your own children. Please, please give my child back to me.” Michael Schiavo and fiancee Jodi Centonze have two children, born long after Terri Schiavo’s collapse.
Although supporters of the Schindlers have claimed the dehydrated woman is being denied comfort measures such as ice chips for her dry mouth or balm for chapped lips, George Felos, the husband’s attorney, defended how Schiavo is being cared for.
“Obviously, the parents and the siblings are desperate. Desperation may lead to different perceptions,” Felos told CNN. “I can only tell you what I’ve seen, and Terri is dying a very peaceful, cared-for death.”
Jackson said he asked Michael Schiavo for permission to see the brain-damaged woman but was denied. He also telephoned black legislators in a last-ditch effort to bring back a bill that would prohibit severely brain-damaged patients from being denied food and water if they didn’t express their wishes in writing. Lawmakers rejected the legislation earlier this month and appeared unlikely to reconsider it.
One of those contacted by Jackson, Democratic state Sen. Gary Siplin, said he told Jackson the issue had been “thoroughly discussed.” Senate Democratic leader Les Miller added, “I have voted. It’s time to move on.”
First lady Laura Bush also commented on the case Tuesday, saying the government was right to have intervened on behalf of Schiavo.
“It is a life issue that really does require government to be involved,” Bush said aboard a plane bound for Afghanistan, where she was to promote education and women’s rights.
During Jackson’s visit, a man was tackled to the ground by officers when he tried to storm into the hospice, police said. He became the 47th protester arrested since the feeding tube was removed March 18. The man had two bottles of water with him but did not reach the hospice door, police said.
The Schindlers had lost a round in the courts Tuesday when an appeals court upheld a previous ruling by Pinellas County Circuit Judge George Greer that blocked the Department of Children and Families from intervening in the case.
Associated Press Writer Mike Schneider in Pinellas Park, Fla., contributed to this report.