Judge: Agency Cannot Delay Schiavo Case

A judge ruled Thursday that Florida's social services agency cannot intervene to delay the removal of the feeding tube keeping brain-damaged Terri Schiavo (search) alive.

The Department of Children & Families had asked for a 60-day delay in the removal of the tube, now set for March 18. The agency said it wanted time to investigate allegations of abuse and neglect against the woman's husband, Michael Schiavo (search).

But Circuit Judge George W. Greer said those allegations and many others had been investigated in the past and found to be groundless. He said the agency was apparently trying to pull an end run around the court by getting involved at this late stage.

The decision was another setback for Gov. Jeb Bush's (search) administration.

Terri Schiavo is in what some doctors say is a persistent vegetative state, with no consciousness. She suffered brain damage in 1990 after her heart stopped because of a chemical imbalance believed to have been brought on by an eating disorder.

Michael Schiavo has gotten a court order to remove the feeding tube, contending his wife told him she would not want to be kept alive artificially. But her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, dispute that, and have fought their son-in-law in court for nearly seven years over their daughter's fate.

The DCF said it wanted to investigate accusations against Michael Schiavo — who is her legal guardian — that included denying his wife some medical treatment and therapy, isolating her in her room with the blinds closed, failing to fix her broken wheelchair and failing to file timely guardianship plans.

Michael Schiavo's attorney had criticized the last-minute attempt by the agency to get involved, saying it was engineered by the governor and others who have sided with the Schindlers.

The Schindlers will look again to the state Legislature and perhaps Congress for help. Both have bills in the works that lawmakers say could save Terri Schiavo's life.

In Tallahassee on Wednesday, a state House committee approved a bill requiring doctors to provide food and water to incapacitated patients who left no instructions. Bush, who has said he would do anything within his power to save Terri Schiavo, supports the bill.

In 2003, the governor pushed a law through the Legislature authorizing him to resume the woman's artificial feedings six days after the court stopped them. The law was later struck down as unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court.

On Tuesday, Rep. Dave Weldon and Sen. Mel Martinez, both Florida Republicans, introduced legislation in Washington that could give the Schindlers access to federal courts in the effort to save their daughter's life.