Live

Watch CBSN Live

Time Running Out For Schiavo

As Terri Schiavo's health waned, a federal judge refused Friday to order the reinsertion of her feeding tube, thwarting another move from the brain-damaged woman's parents in their now-quixotic legal battle to keep her alive.

For a second time, U.S. District Judge James Whittemore ruled against the parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, who had asked him to grant their emergency request to restore her feeding tube while he considers a lawsuit they filed. The Schindlers, hoping for a legal miracle, have appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals for the third time this week.

Another legal maneuver included a late afternoon filing asking Pinellas Circuit Judge George Greer to order the reinsertion of the tube, claiming Terri Schiavo tried to say "I want to live" when her tube was removed.

Doctors who have examined her for the court case have said her previous utterances weren't speech, but were involuntary moans consistent with someone in a vegetative state. Greer, who had ordered the tube removed, planned a hearing later in the day.

Barbara Weller, an attorney for the Schindlers, called the motion "our final shot." An attorney for her husband Michael Schiavo had just received the motion and was not available for comment.

Bob Schindler visited his daughter for about 15 minutes Friday morning. "Terri is weakening; she's down to her last hours," he said. "So something has to be done, and it has to be done quick."

He said the appeal to the Atlanta court is "very, very viable and we're encouraging the appellate court to take a hard look at this thing and do the right thing."

"The courts clearly are saying enough is enough," says CBS News.com Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen. "At some point, the Schindler's lawyers have to be mindful of their ethical obligations not to file appeals that do not have a reasonable chance of success."

The tube was removed a week ago on a state judge's order that agreed with her husband, who has said she has no hope for recovery and wouldn't want to be kept alive artificially. The Schindlers believe their daughter could improve and wouldn't want to die.

Schiavo's death could come within an hour or a week. Right-to-life protesters refuse to give up, and their ire is turning inward on Gov. Jeb Bush. The activists wanted Bush to defy the courts and snatch Schiavo from the hospice and her husband's custody in an illegal raid, reports CBS News Correspondent Kelly Cobiella.

However, the governor made his position very clear. "I can't go beyond what my powers are and I'm not going to do it."

Instead, Gov. Jeb Bush has ordered his legal team to scour state laws for a way to reconnect Schiavo's feeding tube.

Michael Schiavo's attorney George Felos slammed Gov. Bush's increasingly tenuous efforts to circumvent the courts.

"We haven't seen obstructionism like that since the days of George Wallace and the civil rights movement, trying to stop a black man from entering the school," Felos told the CBS News Early Show.

As of Friday morning, Terri Schiavo, 41, had been without food or water for almost seven days and was showing signs of dehydration -- flaky skin, dry tongue and lips, and sunken eyes, according to attorneys and friends of the Schindlers.

"She's still cognitive," Schiavo's father told CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann. "She hasn't lapsed in any kind of a coma yet, but that will come."

She has now been off the tube longer than she was in 2003, when the tube was removed for six days and five hours. It was reinserted when the Legislature passed a law later thrown out by the courts.

On Thursday, Pinellas Circuit Judge George Greer denied Gov. Jeb Bush's request to let the state take Terri Schiavo into protective custody. Bush, continuing his steadfast support of the Schindlers, appealed to the 2nd District Court of Appeal.

In his appeal to the federal courts, Gov. Bush cited the medical opinion of a doctor who is a prominent member of the Christian Medical Association, which opposes abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide, reports CBS News Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Kaledin.

Dr. William Cheshire, who declined to give an interview to CBS News, issued a 7-page affidavit after a 90-minute bedside visit saying she is in fact minimally conscious, and can feel pain.

"The visitor has a distinct sense of the presence of a living human being," he writes, "who seems at some level to be aware of some things around her."

"That's totally bogus," responds Dr. Ronald Cranford of the University of Minnesota, one of the eight doctors to actually examine Terri Schiavo.


Cranford says this is a perfect example of religious beliefs muddying medical waters.

"Terri's not there. She's been like this for 15 years," he says. "There's no doubt about the diagnosis and all the pro-lifers and Christian bio-ethicists in the world aren't going to change that."

Cranford and other neurologists say brain scans show massive damage to her cerebral hemisphere.

In the federal court hearing, Schindler lawyer David Gibbs III argued that Terri Schiavo's rights to life and privacy were being violated. Whittemore interrupted as Gibbs attempted to liken Schiavo's death to a murder.

"That is the emotional rhetoric of this case. It does not influence this court, and cannot influence this court. I want you to know it and I want the public to know it," Whittemore said.

A perimeter around the federal courthouse was evacuated during the hearing after a suspicious backpack was found outside. The hearing was not interrupted, and the package was safely detonated using a remote device.

On Thursday evening, a man was arrested after he went to a gun store in Seminole and threatened its owner with a box cutter while demanding a weapon to "rescue" Terri Schiavo, the Pinellas County sheriff's office said.

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, but her husband argued that she told him she would not want to be kept alive artificially. Her parents dispute that, and contend she could get better.

The dispute has led to what may be the longest, most heavily litigated right-to-die case in U.S. history.

Earlier Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court, without explanation, refused to order the feeding tube reinserted. The case worked its way through the federal courts and reached the Supreme Court after Congress passed an extraordinary law over the weekend to let the Schindlers take their case to federal court.

View CBS News In