Tags: Justice | Kennedy | Won't | Intervene | for | Comatose | Woman

Justice Kennedy Won't Intervene for Comatose Woman

Monday, 23 April 2001 12:00 AM

The woman's parents say without the feeding tube their daughter will die in a week or two. They had asked the Supreme Court of the United States to intervene, saying their daughter's husband was acting against her interests in allowing her to die. They said he would inherit about $700,000 in damages awarded by a jury for her life care.

Kennedy oversees Florida and the rest of the 11th U.S. Circuit. He could have referred the request to the full court for a vote but instead acted on his own within hours of receiving the request.

That means the woman's parents still have the option of asking any of the eight other Supreme Court justices to block the tube's removal, but such maneuvers rarely succeed after a circuit's supervising justice has denied a request.

Theresa Marie Schiavo, 37, is in a nursing home in Seminole, Fla. She went into cardiac arrest in 1990 because of a potassium imbalance and was resuscitated but suffered profound brain damage. She receives food and water through a gastric feeding tube.

"Absent a stay pending [Supreme Court review], Terri will begin to starve to death at 5 p.m. Monday," her parents told the U.S. Supreme Court in their emergency request.

The parents contend that the woman's husband, Michael Schiavo, received permission to have the tube removed "during a trial in which she had no independent legal representation. Her husband, while engaged to be married to another woman with whom he was living, brought the action to terminate her life."

If the tube is removed, the woman's parents said, "Terri will begin to starve to death, and she will painfully die in a week or two."

A Florida judge issued an order allowing the removal of the feeding tube in February. The woman's parents, Robert and Mary Schindler of St. Petersburg, Fla., filed an appeal, but ultimately the Florida Supreme Court refused to block the order.

The parents then went to federal court. Though a judge ruled that the woman's father had no standing to bring the case, he ordered a stay until 5 p.m. Monday to allow an appeal.

Terri has been in and out of nursing homes since her 1990 cardiac arrest but is not on life support, the Schindlers told the U.S. Supreme Court in the emergency filing.

In 1992, Michael Schiavo filed a malpractice suit against the doctor who had been treating his wife before the cardiac arrest. In a 1993 settlement, he netted damages "to care for Terri for the rest of her life," the Schindlers said.

The Schindlers said they disagreed with Schiavo about Terri's care early, contending that he tried unsuccessfully to prevent a nursing home from administering antibiotics shortly after the 1993 settlement.

Schiavo's decision to remove the tube is based on Terri's alleged oral statements to her husband, requesting that he not have her life sustained indefinitely, the Schindlers said. Terri is a Catholic. The couple had no children.

The Florida judge who made the original decision in the case outlined its complications. If Schiavo divorces Terri before she dies, then her parents become her guardians and her heirs. "Neither side is exempt from finger pointing as to possible conflicts of interest in this case," the judge said.

The Schindlers' request was automatically routed to Kennedy, denied it within hours Monday without comment.

(Application No. 00-926, In re: the guardianship of Theresa Marie Schiavo)

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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The woman's parents say without the feeding tube their daughter will die in a week or two. They had asked the Supreme Court of the United States to intervene, saying their daughter's husband was acting against her interests in allowing her to die. They said he would inherit...
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2001-00-23
Monday, 23 April 2001 12:00 AM
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