3/31/05 Terri Schiavo has died
Thursday, March 31, 2005 Posted: 10:07 AM EST
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Terri Schiavo, the 41-year-old brain-damaged woman who became the centerpiece of a national right-to-die battle, died Thursday morning, nearly two weeks after doctors removed the feeding tube that had sustained her for more than a decade.
Brother Paul O'Donnell, a spokesman for Bob and Mary Schindler, Schiavo's parents, said the couple was with their daughter's body and praying.
Wednesday, the Schindlers lost what their lawyer described as their "last meaningful legal appeal" in their desperate battle to have their brain-damaged daughter's feeding tube reinserted.
The U.S. Supreme Court late Wednesday refused once again to hear an emergency appeal from the Schindlers.
Their lawyer, David Gibbs, heard the high court had rejected the appeal during a news conference outside the Pinellas Park, Florida, hospice where Schiavo was receiving care.
"It appears that that will be the last meaningful legal appeal unless something comes up," Gibbs had said. "Fundamentally, the decision of the Florida courts will remain unchanged and the federal courts have declined to get involved."
Thursday morning, O' Donnell said that Schiavo was in her final hours of life, and police have prohibited her blood relatives from spending time with her.
O'Donnell, one of the family's spiritual advisers, said that her parents and siblings were "begging to be at her bedside...but are being denied."
Michael Schiavo was Terri's guardian and controlled who may visit her and when.
Pasco-Pinellas Circuit Judge George Greer in Clearwater, Florida, ordered the feeding tube removed March 18 at Michael Schiavo's request. He has said that his wife wouldn't have wanted to live in her condition -- what Florida courts have deemed a "persistent vegetative state."
The parents felt otherwise and had sought to take guardianship of their daughter from her husband. Their bitter court battles began in 1998.
"I don't understand why Michael Schiavo at some point didn't walk away," Gibbs said.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has jurisdiction over Florida, Georgia and Alabama, and could have ruled on the petition on his own, referred the appeal to the entire Supreme Court at 10:40 p.m. Wednesday.
There was no breakdown of the vote, and the high court issued no explanation for its decision. The petition had been filed earlier in the night.
It was the second time in a week the high court refused to hear the case, and the sixth time since 2001.
The Schindlers "can know they have done everything possible under the law in letting government know that they wanted to fight for the life of their daughter," Gibbs said.
In his Supreme Court filing, Gibbs and other lawyers for the parents wrote that removing the tube represented "an unconstitutional deprivation of Terri Schiavo's constitutional right to life."
The Supreme Court's rejection came hours after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Georgia, rejected the parents' petition 9-2. That court denied three similar requests from the parents last week.
In a concurring opinion of the Atlanta court's latest ruling, Judge Stanley Birch said Congress "chose to overstep constitutional boundaries" by passing a law to force the Schiavo case into federal courts.
Judges Gerald Tjoflat and Charles Wilson dissented, with Tjoflat writing that the Schindlers deserved a hearing on the merits of their argument.
On March 21, three days after Schiavo's feeding tube was removed, Congress passed a bill transferring jurisdiction of the case from Florida state court to a U.S. District Court, for a federal judge to review. President Bush signed it into law the next day. But federal courts refused to overturn the state courts' decision.
2002 videotapes released
The Pinellas County Probate Court has released nine of 11 videotapes of Terri Schiavo recorded in the summer of 2002 and shown in a Florida appeals court hearing on her medical condition.
The videos show several doctors talking to and examining Schiavo to get ready for their court testimony. The tapes were recorded from July to September 2002.
Family members, including her mother and husband, also appear in the video.
Two of the 11 tapes remain sealed by the court, but it was unclear why.
In October 2002, Florida's 2nd District Court of Appeal heard a week of testimony from five doctors who examined her, including two picked by Michael Schiavo, two by her parents and one picked by the court.
Three doctors, including one appointed by the court, testified that Terri Schiavo was in a persistent vegetative state with no hope of recovery. The two doctors selected by the Schindlers testified they thought she could recover.
The appellate court concurred with a lower court decision that Schiavo had no hope of recovery and that her feeding tube could be removed.
Terri Schiavo collapsed in her home in 1990, suffering from heart failure that led to severe brain damage because of lack of oxygen.
Her husband has said she suffered from bulimia, an eating disorder, that resulted in a potassium deficiency that triggered the heart failure.
CNN's Ninette Sosa, Bob Franken, Rich Phillips and Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.