Published March 31, 2005
The U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday night refused to reinsert Terri Schiavo's (search) feeding tube, just hours after a federal appeals court declined to hold another hearing on the issue. The brain-damaged woman has been without nutrients or water for nearly two weeks.
The decision was the sixth time since 2000 that the Supreme Court declined to intervene in the case. Justices did not explain their decision and there was no indication how they voted.
It was also the second time in a week that the high court refused to reinsert her tube.
The latest emergency request argued that the federal courts didn't consider whether there was enough "clear and convincing" evidence that Schiavo would have chosen to die in her current condition.
A court ruling had allowed her husband and legal guardian, Michael Schiavo (search), to order the tube that had kept her alive for 15 years removed.
Appearing with the woman's family earlier on Wednesday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson (search) said as long as it was possible to restore food and water, Schiavo's loved ones should not give up hope.
"We ask God to sustain this family as they go through this gut-wrenching ordeal," Jackson said, surrounded by Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler (search), and her brother and sister. "We know that the innocent do suffer and that you need not be guilty to be crucified."
Jackson was with the Schindler family for a second day on Wednesday. The onetime Democratic presidential contender broke with many fellow liberals in pressing for the reinsertion of Schiavo's feeding tube.
Less than a day after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (search) allowed the Schindlers to file the latest of several emergency appeals to reverse the feeding tube decision, the court again rejected the possibility of a hearing.
"While the members of her family and the members of Congress have acted in a way that is both fervent and sincere, the time has come for dispassionate discharge of duty," Judge Stanley F. Birch Jr. wrote for the majority.
For the appeal to be granted, the parents' request would have needed the support of seven of the court's 12 judges. Judge William H. Pryor Jr. was recovering from surgery and did not participate, and Judges Charles R. Wilson and Gerald Bard Tjoflat dissented.
Birch also addressed the "activist judges" label, which has been tossed at all the jurists involved in the case, using the term's definition in his criticism of President Bush and Congress.
"Despite sincere and altruistic motivations, the legislative and executive branches of our government have acted in a manner demonstrably at odds with our Founding Fathers' blueprint for the governance of a free people — our Constitution," he wrote.
Since Schiavo's feeding tube was removed on March 18, mostly Republican lawmakers and the president have taken extraordinary and unprecedented steps to nullify prior court decisions. State and federal court rulings have consistently sided with Michael Schiavo, who has successfully argued that his wife did not want to be kept alive artificially.
Birch scolded the "legislative and executive branches of our government" for muddying the separation of powers.
FOX News' Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano said Wednesday's rejection spelled the end of the road for their legal battle.
"The [Schindlers'] grounds were the same grounds as last week — their view that last week's congressional legislation required a federal judge to look at the same evidence the state judge looked at," he said. "This is the second time the appeals court said they wouldn't do it; the court decided there was nothing wrong with the state courts' rulings."
Napolitano added that while it was unfortunate that the court's decision was written in cold legalese, he could detect some amount of exasperation among the judges.
"The court is really saying to Congress, 'Don't tell the courts what to do,' and to the Schindlers, 'You've been here twice now, don't come back,'" he said.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Schindlers and their friends and relatives said Terri looked well enough to be saved.
"Terri is still with us. ... She is weak from the lack of food and hydration but her skin tone is fine. I think it's breaking down. I know some of her organs are still functioning," Bob Schindler said from outside his daughter's hospice.
"I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw and encouraged. She's still fighting and we're going to fight for her. It's not too late," he said, presumably directing his comments to the judges.
It was not clear what, if any, effect reinserting the tube would have on Schiavo.
Dr. Alexander Mauskop, a neurologist and director of the New York Headache Center, said the chances are "close to zero" that Schiavo will survive, even if the tube is reattached.
Mauskop said that Schiavo's kidneys have probably failed, a condition that could not be reversed even if water supply to the body was resumed. And despite the Schindlers' claims, Mauskop said, Schiavo could not be conscious with such a severely eroded cerebral cortex.
"She's not suffering at all," he told FOX News, adding, "Maybe it would not be bad to let the parents have their child, even if it's just the body ... maybe they should have the right to come and watch her and think she's alive."
Schindler family spokesman Randall Terry angrily dismissed that assessment, calling Mauskop "Dr. Frankenstein."
"We have a moral obligation to continue to fight, even if it's all hope against hope," he told FOX News.
Differences of Opinion Turn Ugly
As Schiavo's life continues to slip away, some who believe she should be kept alive have resorted to extreme measures.
Florida Circuit Court Judge George W. Greer (search), who has consistently ruled in Michael Schiavo's favor, has found himself the target of a "sea of death threats," according to a report in the Washington Times.
Greer has received hate mail and threatening phone calls and has been personally harassed by angry protesters at his home and office. The judge is being guarded by sheriff's deputies, the Times said.
Florida lawmakers who believe the courts have proved Schiavo did not want to be kept alive while in a persistent vegetative state have also been harassed and threatened.
State Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, told "FOX & Friends" that in a legislative session last Thursday, "some of the female senators were crying on the floor, saying that they had been threatened with their lives because of this issue."
And the divide between Michael Schiavo's camp and the Schindlers' has turned even more venomous, with some accusing Schiavo of spousal abuse and blaming him for his wife's condition.
Terri Schiavo suffered catastrophic brain damage in 1990 when her heart stopped for several minutes because of a potassium imbalance, which is commonly associated with bulimia. Schiavo was overweight as a teen and lost a dramatic amount of weight when she entered adulthood. Her husband maintains she had an eating disorder.
But charges from Terri's former nurse that she was abused by her husband have inflamed those who don't believe she is actually in a vegetative state. The nurse alleges that Michael Schiavo aggravated his wife's condition shortly after she was initially hospitalized because he wanted to be free of her — invoking parallels to Scott Peterson, the California man convicted of murdering his pregnant wife, Laci.
Michael Schiavo's lawyer said Monday that an autopsy was planned to show the extent of his wife's brain damage.
Doctors have said Schiavo, 41, would probably die within two weeks after the tube was removed.
Protesters have not left the grounds of the Pinellas Park, Fla., hospice where Terri Schiavo lies. But as her death approaches, sheriffs are locking down the perimeter following threats to the building, including one from a person who said he would bomb the hospice if Schiavo died.
Three protesters were arrested Wednesday, including one who was arrested when he tried to take a plastic cup of water into the hospice. Officers stopped him at the gate as he shouted: "You don't know God from Godzilla!"
Sheriffs are also searching cars that approach the hospice, and are checking the grounds for suspicious packages.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.