With time running out for Terri Schiavo, a federal appeals court Wednesday rejected her parents’ latest attempt to get the brain-damaged woman’s feeding tube reconnected.
The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to consider an emergency bid by Bob and Mary Schindler for a new hearing in their case, raising a flicker of hope for the parents after a series of setbacks in the case. But the court rejected the bid 15 hours later – the fourth time since last week the court ruled against the Schindlers.
“Any further action by our court or the district court would be improper,” wrote Judge Stanley F. Birch Jr., who was appointed by former President Bush. “While the members of her family and the members of Congress have acted in a way that is both fervent and sincere, the time has come for dispassionate discharge of duty.”
Birch went on to scold President Bush and Congress for their attempts to intervene in the judicial process, by saying: “In resolving the Schiavo controversy, it is my judgment that, despite sincere and altruistic motivation, the legislative and executive branches of our government have acted in a manner demonstrably at odds with our Founding Fathers’ blueprint for the governance of a free people – our Constitution.”
The decision came as Schiavo approached her 13th day without food or water.
To be granted, the parents’ request would have needed the support of seven of the court’s 12 judges. The court did not disclose the vote breakdown.
The Schindlers visited their daughter Wednesday morning at her hospice and urged their supporters to keep trying. “I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw,” Bob Schindler said. “So she’s still fighting, and we’ll keep fighting.”
“We know that some of her organs are still functioning. … It’s not too late,” he said.
The request for a new hearing asked that the tube be reinserted immediately “in light of the magnitude of what is at stake and the urgency of the action required.”
In requesting a new hearing, the Schindlers argued that a federal judge in Tampa should have considered the entire state court record and not whether previous Florida court rulings met legal standards under state law. The Schindlers’ motion also said the federal appellate court in Atlanta didn’t consider whether there was enough “clear and convincing” evidence that Terri Schiavo would have chosen to die in her current condition.
George Felos, the attorney for Schiavo’s husband, declined to comment.
Time was running out for Schiavo. Bob Schindler described his daughter on Tuesday as “failing.”
“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.”
Doctors have said Schiavo, 41, would probably die within two weeks after the tube was removed March 18. Her husband, Michael Schiavo, insists he is carrying out her wishes by having the feeding tube pulled.
The case has wound its way through six courts for seven years; the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene five times.
“There’s a chance for a miracle,” said Christine Marriott, one of the protesters outside Schiavo’s hospice. “Anything positive is a breath of life.”
Early Wednesday, a man was arrested when he tried to take a plastic cup of water into the hospice. Officers stopped him at the gate as he shouted: “You don’t know God from Godzilla!”
He was the 48th protester arrested since the tube was removed.
Schiavo 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.
The Schindlers have maintained that their daughter would want to be kept alive.
Federal courts were given jurisdiction to review Schiavo’s case after Republicans in Congress pushed through unprecedented emergency legislation aimed at prolonging her life. But federal courts at three levels have rebuffed her parents.
On Tuesday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson prayed with the Schindlers and first lady Laura Bush said the government was right to have intervened on behalf of Schiavo.
Jackson was in Tallahassee on Wednesday, and met with Gov. Jeb Bush and legislative leaders. But Jackson said he didn’t know of any senators who were willing to reverse themselves and support a bill now.
Associated Press writers Johnny Clark and and Jonathan Landrum Jr. in Atlanta contributed to this report.