Published March 28, 2005
PINELLAS PARK, Fla. – Terri Schiavo (search) was clinging to life Monday after being given last rites, and protesters who rallied outside her Florida hospice vowed to march on the White House in their quest to have her feeding tube reinserted.
While she lay in a hospice bed, her father told reporters that time remained to save his daughter's life. But Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (search) said Monday he had to respect decisions made by federal courts last week not to have the tube reinserted.
"I have not seen any means by which the executive branch can get involved. My legal counsel has talked to the Schindler family and their lawyer over the weekend," Bush said. "My heart is broken about this."
At least two more state-filed appeals are pending, but those challenges are before the state's 2nd District Court of Appeal, which has rebuffed Gov. Bush's previous efforts in the case. Bush's office and the court clerk said Monday it was unclear when the appeals judges would rule.
Bob Schindler, Terri's father, didn't mention Bush by name when he talked to reporters outside the Pinellas Park hospice, but he did offer a plea to the "powers that be" as he described his daughter as being "very, very, very weak."
"She has just incredible strength to live," Schindler said, telling those unnamed powers, "Don't give up on her. We haven't given up on her and she hasn't given up on us."
George Felos, the attorney for Terri Schiavo's husband, Michael Schiavo, described the brain-damaged woman's tranquil state during a Monday evening news conference.
Her "appearance to me was very calm, very relaxed, very peaceful. … I saw no evidence of bodily discomfort," he said. He added, however, that her breathing seemed "a little on the rapid side" and her eyes were sunken.
Felos said the hospice room was decorated with flowers, had music playing and that Schiavo had a stuffed tabby cat under one arm.
He also said that the chief medical examiner for Pinellas County, Dr. John Thogmartin, had agreed to perform an autopsy. He said her husband wants definitive proof showing the extent of her brain damage. Michael Schiavo contends his wife told him years ago she would not want to be kept alive artificially under such circumstances.
An attorney for Schiavo's parents, David Gibbs III, said her family also wants an autopsy. "We would certainly support and encourage an autopsy to be done with all the unanswered questions," Gibbs said.
Doctors have said Schiavo, 41, would probably die within a week or two once the feeding tube — which kept her alive for 15 years — was disconnected. Monday was her 10th day without food or water. She relied on the tube since suffering catastrophic brain damage when her heart stopped beating and oxygen was cut off to her brain.
However, Bob and Mary Schindler (search) continued to ask Gov. Bush and President Bush to intervene on their daughter's behalf. But President Bush's aides have said they ran out of legal options to help the woman.
Despite the fresh appeals, a Schindler family spokesman said the parents know their daughter is dying.
"They are dealing with reality," Paul O'Donnell, a Roman Catholic Franciscan monk and a spokesman for her parents, said of the Schindlers in an interview on NBC's "Today." "They know their daughter is dying. They know what is about to happen."
No new details of Schiavo's condition have been released, but a priest who visited her room said, "death is imminent."
Michael Schiavo permitted his wife to receive Easter communion on Sunday, when she also was anointed with holy oil, blessed and absolved of her sin by a priest.
Felos said Terri Schiavo “received the sacrament [of Communion] on Easter at approximately 4 p.m. ... A drop of wine was put on Ms. Schiavo’s lip.”
As her brother, sister and brother-in-law watched, the Rev. Thaddeus Malanowski held Terri's right hand as he and the hospice priest, the Rev. Joseph Braun, placed the droplet on her tongue. Malanowski also anointed her with holy oil, offered a blessing and absolved her of sin.
"She received the blood of Christ," said Malanowski, adding he could not give her a fleck of communion bread because her tongue was too dry.
O'Donnell said Schiavo smiled, raised her hands and made guttural sounds late Sunday while being visited by her father and a friend, who was talking about how she liked to go out dancing.
Supporters Vow to Continue Fight
Protesters in support of Terri Schiavo weren't ready to give up their fight Monday. Supporters vowed to head to Washington to pressure Bush and lawmakers to fight to have the brain-damaged woman's feeding tube reinserted.
"Everyone is willing to write this woman's obituary except one person. And that's Terri Schiavo herself," said O'Donnell. A group of their supporters were heading to protest outside the White House gates Monday.
Schiavo's parents dispute that their daughter is in a persistent vegetative state as court-ordered doctors have determined.
Fewer than 10 protesters stayed overnight in rain and wind. One man was arrested before dawn trying to take a jug of water to Schiavo.
Schiavo's mother did not visit her daughter on Easter, emotions keeping her from the hospice for the first time since Terri's feeding tube was removed 10 days ago, O'Donnell said.
"If she goes in there again, we might have to take her to the hospital," O'Donnell said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.