DUNEDIN, Fla. – The case of a severely brain-damaged woman remained locked in a legal stalemate Tuesday after an appeals court cleared the way for her husband to remove her feeding tube only to see a judge promptly block the removal for at least another day.
The 2nd District Court of Appeal offered no specific instructions in a one-page mandate issued in the case of Terri Schiavo (search), who was left brain damaged 15 years ago. That meant her husband, Michael Schiavo (search), could order his wife's tube be removed.
But Pinellas Circuit Court Judge George Greer (search) issued an emergency stay about an hour later blocking removal of the feeding tube until 5 p.m. EST Wednesday. Greer, who has been overseeing the long-standing dispute, scheduled a hearing on the case for Wednesday.
"The family is profoundly grateful," said David Gibbs III, an attorney for Terri Schiavo's parents. "They believed God answered their prayers. Their daughter is alive another day."
The parents, Bob and Mary Schindler (search), sought the stay in hopes of keeping their daughter alive long enough for them to file additional legal pleadings. They are trying to oust their son-in-law as her guardian and seeking medical tests which might back their assertion that their daughter has some mental capabilities.
It would likely take several days for Terri Schiavo to die if the tube is pulled.
The appeals court's mandate allowed Michael Schiavo to act under previous court rulings in the years-long, highly emotional legal battle.
The court has consistently upheld lower court rulings that Terri Schiavo had expressed wishes not to be kept alive artificially, although she left no written directive.
In October 2003, she went without food or water for six days before Gov. Jeb Bush (search) pushed through a new law letting him order the tube be reinserted. The Florida Supreme Court later struck down his action as unconstitutional.
The courts also sided with Michael Schiavo when he had the tube removed for two days in 2001.
George Felos, Michael Schiavo's attorney, said, "as soon as he's legally authorized, he will discontinue artificial life support."
Terri Schiavo suffered severe brain damage in 1990 when a chemical imbalance believed to have been brought on by an eating disorder caused her heart to stop beating and cut off oxygen to her brain.
While she breathes on her own, she relies on the feeding tube to survive. Doctors have ruled she is in a persistent vegetative state with no hope for recovery.
Still, her parents, who visit her nearly every day, report their daughter has laughed, cried, smiled and responded to their voices. Video showing the dark-haired woman appearing to interact with her family has been televised nationally. But the court-appointed doctor has said the noises and facial expressions are reflexes.
The lawyer for the parents also said he is preparing a motion to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the family's claim that Terri Schiavo should be spared based on statements by Pope John Paul II that people in vegetative states have a right to nutrition and hydration. They say Terri, as a practicing Roman Catholic, would have obeyed the pope and would not choose to have her tube removed.
Both sides accused each other of being motivated by greed over a $1 million medical malpractice award from doctors who failed to diagnose the chemical imbalance. The Schindlers argue Michael Schiavo should divorce their daughter.