Schiavo's death 'nears' as protest goes to Washington

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The Independent US

Ten days after her feeding tube was removed, Terri Schiavo was slipping towards death yesterday, even as the most determined supporters of her right to life moved their protest to the gates of the White House.

Ten days after her feeding tube was removed, Terri Schiavo was slipping towards death yesterday, even as the most determined supporters of her right to life moved their protest to the gates of the White House.

About two dozen protesters gathered in a park across from the White House.

No specific detail of the condition of the 41-year-old woman, severely brain-damaged since 1990, had emerged, but one of the two priests who visited her Florida hospice on Easter Sunday said her death was "imminent". Her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, seem resigned. They were now "dealing with reality", a family spokesman said. "They know their daughter is dying. They know what is about to happen."

Mr Schindler told reporters that he feared staff at the Pinellas Park hospice, near Tampa, might try to hasten her end by giving her an overdose of morphine. But Louise Cleary, a spokeswoman for the hospice, said: "We do not hasten death in any way, nor do we prolong life. That is not our role."

After a series of decisions by both state and federal courts not to restore her life support, her would-be rescuers, from the White House and Congress and Governor Jeb Bush in Florida, acknowledge they are legally powerless to intervene.

Medical experts expect Ms Schiavo to die by the end of this week or earlier. On Sunday she received communion, as two priests placed a drop of wine on her tongue. Her tongue was too dry for her to be given communion bread. Father Thaddeus Malanowski, the Schindler family priest, also anointed her with holy oil, offered a blessing and absolved her of sin.

The Schindlers deny their daughter is in a persistent vegetative state, as diagnosed by doctors. Mr Schiavo however insists that his wife told him she would not want to be kept alive artificially in such circumstances. Under Florida law, the instructions of the spouse are paramount in such cases.

Upset by the atmosphere outside the hospice, the Schindlers asked supporters there to spend the Easter with their families. Nonetheless five people were arrested, and chants of "Give Terri water!" echoed for much of Sunday.

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