Abuse Claim In Feeding Tube Fight

With a court-ordered stay due to expire Friday, there's a new legal issue in the fight over a feeding tube keeping a brain-damaged Florida woman alive.

An attorney for Terri Schiavo's parents says the Department of Children and Families is seeking a 60-day stay in removing the tube while it investigates new allegations of abuse and neglect. Previous investigations were unable to substantiate similar allegations.

Schiavo's husband wants the feeding tube removed, saying his wife never would have wanted to be kept alive artificially. The woman's parents are fighting Michael Schiavo's attempts to remove the tube.

A state judge is expected to issue a ruling Friday on whether a longer stay is warranted. It's the 15th anniversary of the woman's debilitating collapse after a heart attack.

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.

Circuit Court Judge George Greer already is expected to rule Friday on whether to grant a longer stay in connection with other filings in the case involving the severely brain-damaged woman.

A spokesman for the Department of Children & Families declined to comment.

Schiavo collapsed 15 years ago Friday, when a chemical imbalance caused her heart to stop beating and cut off oxygen to her brain. She is now 41.

Michael Schiavo is currently blocked from ordering the removal of his wife's feeding tube until 5 p.m. Friday. He and the Schindlers have been at odds over the right-to-die case for more than seven years.

Matt Davis, with the law firm representing Bob and Mary Schindler, said the new allegation allegation appears to echo complaints made publicly by the Schindlers that their daughter has not had adequate therapy and medical care and has been deprived of other rights by her husband.

He said the document does not name a perpetrator, but the Schindlers have repeatedly accused their son-in-law of mistreating their incapacitated daughter.

"We are confident when someone from the outside does see how Terri has been treated, they will see she has been mistreated all these years," Davis said.

Davis said DCF does not say in its filing it has substantiated the allegations, only that it needs time to properly investigate the claims.

Previous allegations of abuse have never proved founded.

George Felos, the attorney for Michael Schiavo, did not return telephone calls for comment.

Michael Schiavo has denied mistreating his wife, and Felos has said the agency is being used for political motives by those who want to thwart the effort to carry out her wishes.