CLEARWATER, Fla. – A judge Wednesday extended an order keeping brain-damaged Terri Schiavo's (search) feeding tube in place, saying he needed time to decide whether her parents should be allowed to pursue further efforts to keep her husband from removing her life support.
State Circuit Court Judge George Greer (search) extended until 5 p.m. Friday an emergency stay that was to expire Wednesday afternoon. He said he needs to decide whether her parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, can have more time to determine if she has greater mental capabilities than previously thought.
The Schindlers also are seeking to have her husband, Michael Schiavo (search), removed as her legal guardian.
"We are really elated," Robert Schindler said. "Forty-eight hours to us right now seems like six years."
Terri Schiavo's parents have been in a long, bitter struggle with her husband, Michael Schiavo, to keep her alive. She collapsed 15 years ago Friday, when a chemical imbalance caused her heart to stop beating and cut off oxygen to her brain.
On Tuesday, an appeals court allowed a stay to expire that had been the last obstacle keeping Michael Schiavo from removing his wife's feeding tube. Greer, however, issued his emergency stay later that day.
The Florida Department of Children & Families moved to intervene in the case Wednesday, hours after Gov. Jeb Bush told reporters he was seeking a way to keep Terri Schiavo alive.
Details of DCF's involvement in the case were not immediately available and both the governor's office and the agency declined comment. Greer denied a DCF attorney an opportunity to speak at the afternoon hearing.
A court filing by the agency remained sealed, but attorneys for Schiavo's husband and her parents said it was related to allegations Michael Schiavo abused his wife.
Those allegations, which have been raised before, are based partly on bone scans showing Terri Schiavo suffered fractures and statements she made to family and friends that she was unhappy in her marriage. Michael Schiavo has denied harming his wife.
George Felos, who represents Michael Schiavo, said DCF has already investigated the allegations and ruled them unfounded. He criticized the DCF move, saying it "reeks of the intervention of politics into the case."
Some doctors have testified that Terri Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state with no hope for recovery, but the Schindlers have countered with other medical opinions that she might improve with rehabilitation. The 41-year-old woman appears to cry, laugh and react to her family.
With the Schindlers' previous legal appeals exhausted, Michael Schiavo had planned to remove his wife's feeding tube Monday. Doctors have said she would live no more than a week or two without getting food and water through the tube inserted into her abdomen.
Bush said Wednesday he was exploring options to block the removal of the tube.
"I can assure you, I will do whatever I can within the means, within the laws, of our state to protect this woman's life," Bush said, adding that he has received thousands of e-mails and telephone calls from the Schindlers' supporters.
In October 2003, Schiavo went without food or water for six days before Bush pushed through a law letting him order reinsertion of the tube. The Florida Supreme Court later struck down his action as unconstitutional. The tube was also removed for two days in 2001.
Michael Schiavo said his wife never wanted to be kept alive artificially, but she left no written directive. The Schindlers dispute their daughter had such wishes.