A judge Wednesday extended a stay keeping brain-damaged Terri Schiavo's feeding tube in place, saying he needed time to decide whether her husband, who wants to let her die, is fit to be her guardian.
Pinellas Circuit Court Judge George Greer extended until Friday an emergency stay that was to expire Wednesday afternoon. He said he also needs more time to determine whether Terri Schiavo needs more medical tests to determine if she has greater mental capabilities than previously thought.
Terri Schiavo's parents have been in a long, bitter struggle with her husband, Michael Schiavo, to keep her alive. She collapsed 15 years ago Friday, when a chemical imbalance possibly triggered by an eating disorder caused her heart to stop beating and cut off oxygen to her brain.
The Florida Department of Children & Families moved to intervene in the case Wednesday, hours after Gov. Jeb Bush told reporters he is seeking a way to keep Terri Schiavo alive.
"The family is profoundly grateful," said David Gibbs III, an attorney for Terri Schiavo's parents. "They believed God answered their prayers. Their daughter is alive another day."
Terri Schiavo left no written instructions before a heart attack left her severely brain-damaged at age 26, leading to four different trials and a Florida law that was overturned in court, reports Gordon Byrd of CBS radio affiliate WHNZ.
Details of the agency's involvement in the case were not immediately available; Greer denied a DCF attorney an opportunity to speak at the afternoon hearing.
George Felos, who represents Michael Schiavo, criticized the DCF move, saying it "reeks of the intervention of politics into the case and is an affront to the court."
Gibbs, the attorney for Schiavo's parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, countered that there are serious allegations of abuse in the case. The Schindlers have accused their son-in-law of mistreating his wife; he has emphatically denied the accusations.
Some doctors have testified that Terri Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state with no hope for recovery, but the Schindlers have countered with other medical opinions that she might improve with rehabilitation. The 41-year-old woman appears to cry, laugh and react to her family.
Bush said Wednesday he is exploring options to block the removal of the tube but added that there was only so much he could do.
"I can assure you, I will do whatever I can within the means, within the laws, of our state to protect this woman's life," Bush said, adding that he has received thousands of e-mails and telephone calls from the Schindlers' supporters.
"People with deep faith and big hearts are concerned, as I am about the circumstance that Ms. Schiavo is in," the governor said. "I want them to know I will do what I can, but there are limits to what any particular person — irrespective of the title they currently hold — can do."
In October 2003, Schiavo went without food or water for six days before Bush pushed through a law letting him order reinsertion of the tube. The Florida Supreme Court later struck down his action as unconstitutional. The tube was also removed for two days in 2001.
Michael Schiavo said his wife never wanted to be kept alive artificially, but she left no written directive.
The Schindlers dispute their daughter had such wishes and say their son-in-law stands to gain from his wife's death, both financially and personally. They have offered to take care of her if Michael Schiavo, who has a new family with another woman, would divorce her.
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