PINELLAS PARK, Fla. – After another round of losses in the courts, Terri Schiavo's (search) parents kept watch over their dying daughter Saturday, seeking permission to give her Easter communion as their attorneys acknowledged the fight to reconnect the brain-damaged woman's feeding tube was nearing an end.
Attorneys for Bob and Mary Schindler decided not to file another motion with a federal appeals court, essentially ending their effort to persuade federal judges to intervene — something allowed by an extraordinary law passed by Congress (search).
But at least three more appeals loomed by the Schindlers and Gov. Jeb Bush (search). Schindler attorney David Gibbs III appealed an unfavorable ruling Saturday with a last-ditch plea to the Florida Supreme Court to get the feeding tube reinserted.
"Time is moving quickly and it would appear most likely ... that Terri Schiavo will pass the point that she will be able to recover over this Easter weekend," Gibbs said. He filed an emergency petition arguing that a Pinellas County judge ignored new evidence of Schiavo's wishes and her medical condition.
Paul O'Donnell, a Roman Catholic Franciscan monk, said the family is urging Schiavo's husband to allow his wife to receive the sacrament of communion at sundown Saturday, when Catholics begin celebrating their holiest feast of the year. Schiavo, who cannot swallow, would have a minuscule piece of bread and a drop of wine placed in her mouth.
Earlier, Pinellas Circuit Judge George Greer rejected the family's latest motion. The family claimed Schiavo tried to say "I want to live" hours before her tube was removed, saying "AHHHHH" and "WAAAAAAA" when asked to repeat the phrase.
Doctors have said her previous utterances weren't speech, but were involuntary moans consistent with someone in a vegetative state. Greer agreed.
Terri Schiavo suffered brain damage in 1990 when her heart stopped briefly from a chemical imbalance believed to have been brought on by an eating disorder. She left no living will.
Scott Schiavo, the brother of Schiavo's husband, Michael, said the family was pleased to see the Schindlers' efforts nearing an end.
"He knows in his heart he is doing the right thing, he is doing what Terri wanted," Scott Schiavo said. "He's having a hard time understanding why people are fighting him on this, why they are calling him a murderer. It's very tough on him."
Michael Schiavo has said she has no hope for recovery and wouldn't want to be kept alive artificially. The Schindlers believe their daughter could improve and say she laughs, cries, responds to them and tries to talk.
Doctors have said she would probably die within a week or two of her feeding tube being pulled, which was done March 18 after Greer sided with her husband. Her body wracked by dehydration, attorneys for her parents said she may not last through the weekend.
"She's doing remarkably well under the circumstances," said Schiavo's father, Bob Schindler, after visiting her inside the hospice Saturday afternoon. "She has put up a tremendous battle to live. She's not throwing in the towel."
Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, denied reports by the parents' attorneys that her tongue and eyes were bleeding.
"She is calm. She is peaceful. She is resting comfortably," Felos told reporters Saturday as four sheriff's deputies stood by to protect him.
Terri Schiavo's brother, Bobby Schindler, called that "absurd" and challenged Felos to allow videos and photos to be released, so the public can see Terri's condition. "They're mischaracterizing the condition today, just as they have been ... It's sick. It's heinous," he said.
Felos said earlier that allowing videos to be recorded inside Terri Schiavo's room during her death process would violate her privacy rights.
Outside the hospice, about 60 protesters maintained a subdued vigil and, like her parents, hoped for a miracle. Some said they believed it was not a coincidence that the woman would lay dying during the Easter weekend.
Schiavo was reared in the Roman Catholic church, and her parents have made heavy use of her faith as the basis for the numerous appeals to reinsert the feeding tube that was removed more than a week ago.
Many supporters of the Schindlers say Bush could simply ignore the courts and take emergency custody of Schiavo. But Bush, himself a convert to Roman Catholicism, has said he's not willing to go beyond the boundaries of his powers.
Bush and the state have two appeals pending in their fight to support the Schindlers. But the challenges are before the state 2nd District Court of Appeal, which has rebuffed previous efforts by Bush in the case.