The Supreme Court in Washington last night again refused to order that Terri Schiavo's feeding tube should be reinserted, dealing another blow to her parents' attempts to keep alive their severely brain-damaged daughter.
The decision, announced late last night in a one-sentence order, was the sixth time since 2000 that the court declined to intervene in the case. Justices did not explain their decision and there was no indication how they voted.
It was also the second time in a week that the high court refused to reinsert the tube. Justices on March 24 denied the parents' emergency request based on similar claims that husband Michael Schiavo did not have her consent to remove the tube.
The feeding tube that has been keeping Schiavo alive at a hospice in Pinellas Park, Florida, was removed March 18. Doctors at the time said that unless it is reinserted she likely would die within two weeks.
The high court's decision was the latest in a string of losses in state and federal courts for parents Bob and Mary Schindler, who say their 41-year-old daughter faces an unjust and imminent death based on a decision by her husband to halt nourishment without proof of her consent.
The latest emergency request argued that the federal courts didn't consider whether there was enough "clear and convincing" evidence that Terri Schiavo would have chosen to die in her current condition. It asked that her tube be reinserted while the parents more fully litigate the matter in the lower courts.
The Schindlers' appeal went first to Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan appointee who has staked a moderate position on social issues. Kennedy has responsibility in the first instance for cases emanating from the Southern district that is home to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. He referred the Schiavo case to the full nine-member court.
The court's decision was expected. Not only had justices repeatedly declined to intervene in the Schiavo case on previous occasions, but they routinely defer to state courts on family law issues. Judges in various Florida courts have sided with Schiavo's husband in the 15 years since she suffered brain damage.
On Wednesday, the 11th Circuit had rejected the Schindlers' request to reinsert the tube.
"Any further action by our court or the district court would be improper," wrote Judge Stanley F. Birch Jr. in an opinion. "While the members of her family and the members of Congress have acted in a way that is both fervent and sincere, the time has come for dispassionate discharge of duty."
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