Under increased security and fading hopes, Terri Schiavo’s parents asked supporters to return home to spend Easter Sunday with their families as the couple’s brain-damaged daughter went a ninth day without food or water.
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.
Paul O’Donnell, a Roman Catholic Franciscan monk, said the family unsuccessfully urged Michael Schiavo to allow his wife the sacrament of communion during the holiest day of the Catholic year. She received last rites the day the feeding tube was pulled.
“This is in violation of her religious rights and freedoms and allows the governor to … intervene,” O’Donnell said Saturday, repeating the family’s request that the governor take Schiavo into protective custody. “We beg you to have courage and take action.”
Police brought in extra officers to block the road in front of Schiavo’s hospice, citing the increased hostility and intensity of protesters.
Schiavo’s parents have disputed that their daughter is in a persistent vegetative state as court-ordered doctors have determined.
Late Saturday, the Florida Supreme Court dismissed a request from the parents’ attorney to have their daughter’s feeding tube reinserted, turning aside an emergency petition arguing that a Pinellas County judge ignored new evidence about Schiavo’s wishes and her medical condition.
At least two more appeals loomed by the state and Gov. Jeb Bush, but those challenges were before the state 2nd District Court of Appeal, which has rebuffed the governor’s previous efforts in the case.
Still, protesters planned to hold a sunrise Easter Mass outside the hospice, even as the Schindlers urged them to celebrate the holiday with their families.
“Be with your children,” O’Donnell told supporters. “Hold them close and cherish every moment you have with them.”
Terri Schiavo was raised Roman Catholic, and her parents have made heavy use of her faith as the basis for the numerous appeals to reinsert the feeding tube.
Meanwhile, police monitored the scene from the hospice roof, patrol cars blocked each entrance and uniformed officers patrolled the grounds.
Schiavo’s condition has deteriorated since her feeding tube was removed, but attorneys for each side offered distinctly different assessments.
David Gibbs III, who represents the Schindlers, said “Terri Schiavo will pass the point that she will be able to recover over this Easter weekend.” Family supporters also said Terri’s breathing has become increasingly labored. Another family attorney said hospice workers began giving her morphine.
But Michael Schiavo’s attorney, George Felos, denied reports by the parents’ attorneys that her tongue and eyes were bleeding, wracked by dehydration.
“She is resting comfortably,” Felos said Saturday. “Her breathing does not appear to be shallow.”
Doctors have said she would probably die within a week or two of her feeding tube being pulled, which was done after a judge sided with her husband’s argument that she would not want to be kept alive artificially.
Meanwhile, another attorney for the Schindlers, Barbara Weller, said Terri cried when her mother hugged her Saturday night. “She knows what’s going on. She was trying to vocalize something with Mary.”
In a last-ditch plea, Gibbs argued to the state’s high court that Schiavo was treated unfairly because she is disabled.
“In the best way she is able, Terri has communicated her wish to live,” the petition argued.
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.
“This is so sad and so disappointing,” said Alia Faraj, a Bush spokeswoman. “This is a very difficult day for Mr. and Mrs. Schindler and most especially for Terri.”
Outside the hospice early Sunday, protesters maintained a vigil. Some believed it wasn’t a coincidence that the brain-damaged woman would lay dying during Easter weekend.
“Things are all done in God’s timing,” said David Vogel, who was arrested for trespassing last week when he tried to take water to her.
Schiavo has been without food and water longer than she was in 2003, when the tube was removed for six days before Gov. Bush pushed through a law to have it reinserted. The law was later thrown out by the state Supreme Court.
The feeding tube was first removed in April 2001.
Associated Press writers Mark Long, Mike Schneider, Allen Breed and Jackie Hallifax contributed to this report.