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Judge Says Schiavo’s Feeding Tube Can Be Removed

From The Associated Press

CLEARWATER – The husband of a woman who’s been in a coma-like state for 12 years can have her feeding tube removed and be allowed to die, a judge ruled Friday.

The ruling is a victory for Michael Schiavo over the parents of his wife, Terri, who have fought for years his attempts to remove the tube. The judge ruled that the tube would be removed Jan. 3 2003 at 3 p.m. The parents say they will appeal.

Terri Schiavo, 38, has been hospitalized since 1990 when a heart attack temporarily cut off oxygen to her brain.

Michael Schiavo, who is his wife’s guardian, had asked the court’s permission to remove her feeding tube, which doctors say will kill her within two weeks. He says his wife is in a vegetative state and would not want to be kept on life support.

Her parents believe their daughter responds to them and would recover with treatment.

Bob and Mary Schindler say their daughter reacts to them with tears and smiles, moves her head and moans. They have doctors who believe she could be rehabilitated with new and aggressive therapy.

Circuit Judge George W. Greer, who first heard the case two years ago, issued the written decision Friday, more than a month after the conclusion of a six-day hearing.

Greer reheard medical testimony after an appellate court overturned his decision to remove the feeding tube last year.

Six doctors testified on Terri Schiavo’s current medical condition.

Two physicians selected by the parents said Schiavo could recover with specialized therapy. A video shown in court showed Schiavo’s eyes open and appearing to track movement with her eyes.

Two doctors selected by the husband said no treatment would ever help her.

Schiavo’s attending physician for the past four years testified she is in a persistent vegetative state, and a court-appointed physician said Schiavo would never recover a meaningful life.

The tube was removed for more than two days last year on Greer’s order, but another judge ordered it reconnected.

Terri collapsed at her St. Petersburg home Feb. 25, 1990, from what doctors believed was a potassium imbalance. Her heart stopped, temporarily cutting off oxygen to her brain. She is now in a hospice facility.

Schiavo says Terri once told him she would not want to be kept on life support.

Michael Schiavo, who recently had a baby girl with his longtime girlfriend, once lived with his in-laws, but now they accuse each other of wanting control of what remains of the $700,000 Terri received from a 1992 malpractice award. It was to pay for her lifelong treatment and care, but only about $140,000 is left after paying her husband’s legal fees, according to court documents. Schiavo separately received about $300,000 from the malpractice award.