TAMPA, Fla. – With their legal options dwindling, the parents of brain-damaged Terri Schiavo (search) renewed a plea to their son-in-law and legal adversary: divorce our daughter and give up the fight.
Hours after the U.S. Supreme Court said Monday it would not intervene in the dispute, attorneys for Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler (search), asked Michael Schiavo to dissolve his marriage and leave them in control of her destiny.
"If there is any way for Michael to walk away... just please, please, please let them keep their daughter and just walk away," said David Gibbs, the Schindlers' attorney.
Michael Schiavo (search) intends to withdraw the tubes that feed and hydrate his 41-year-old wife as soon as legally possible, maybe as early as next month. Terri Schiavo's parents have vowed to keep her alive.
The Schindlers have three legal avenues still open to them: an appeal to a state appeals court in a request for a new trial based on recent comments by Pope John Paul II (search); a request that Michael Schiavo be removed as his wife's guardian; and a motion to set aside the original decision that Terri Schiavo did not want to be kept alive artificially.
That motion will go before Pinellas Circuit Court Judge George Greer on Friday. Greer has twice granted Michael Schiavo permission to withdraw his wife's feeding tube.
The latest legal blow to Terri Schiavo's parents came Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene in the case at the center of one of the nation's most bitter right-to-die disputes.
Without comment, the high court declined to hear an appeal brought by Gov. Jeb Bush's attorneys arguing the governor did not overstep his authority when he ordered Terri Schiavo's feeding tube reattached six days after it had been removed under court order.
"I'm disappointed, but not surprised," Bush said in Tallahassee.
The Florida Supreme Court had earlier ruled Bush's action were an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers between the executive and judicial branches.
"I really don't know what options we have available, but I will take whatever options I think there are," Bush said. "I'm not sure what the legal options are, though."
Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, said his client was pleased with the high court's decision but is still concerned that the Schindlers will delay their daughter's death with more "frivolous appeals."
"We are just hoping that the court sees through this abuse of the legal system and says no," Felos said. "This case is not going to end until the courts summon up the courage and resolve to say we are not going to permit this abuse anymore."
Terri Schiavo suffered severe brain damage 15 years ago when she collapsed in her home when a chemical imbalance, brought on by an eating disorder, caused her heart to stop beating.
Michael Schiavo, who is engaged to another woman with whom he has two children, initially attempted experimental procedures in hopes of rehabilitating his wife, but later had a falling out with her family.
Terri Schiavo can breathe on her own but depends on a feeding tube to stay alive because she cannot swallow. She left no written directive. Her parents contend their son-in-law is trying to rush her death so he can inherit her estate and be free to marry again.
Ken Connor, who represented Bush in the legal challenge to Terri's Law, said he was disappointed in the court's refusal to hear the case involving "the protection of an innocent life."
Connor said the best legal hope for keeping Terri Schiavo alive now rests with the pending filings brought by her parents. And he said other branches of government need to consider if added protections for the disabled need to be in place.
The American Civil Liberties Union (search), which had joined with Michael Schiavo in challenging the governor's action, said Monday's court sends an important message to the governor and legislature not to attempt to thwart judicial decisions because of public pressure.
"I think this terrible, tragic case has been used for larger political purposes," said Howard Simon, the ACLU's executive director in Florida. "That is the shameful history of this case."