US Congress acts in epic battle over hospice wife

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The Independent US

The remarkable battle over the fate of a brain-damaged American woman that has pitted her husband against her parents took a sudden twist yesterday. Congressional leaders in Washington said that they had reached a compromise that would call on US federal courts to decide Terri Schiavo's fate, as emotions swelled outside the hospice where the brain-damaged woman spent her second day without a feeding tube.

The remarkable battle over the fate of a brain-damaged American woman that has pitted her husband against her parents took a sudden twist yesterday. Congressional leaders in Washington said that they had reached a compromise that would call on US federal courts to decide Terri Schiavo's fate, as emotions swelled outside the hospice where the brain-damaged woman spent her second day without a feeding tube.

Four protesters were arrested after they symbolically tried to smuggle bread and water to Ms Schiavo, and her mother pleaded for the 41-year-old woman's life.

"We laugh together, we cry together, we smile together, we talk together," Mary Schindler told reporters as supporters maintained a vigil outside the hospice where her daughter is cared for. "Please, please, please save my little girl."

Congressional leaders announced a compromise that would allow the brain-damaged woman's case to be reviewed by federal courts that could restore her feeding tube. The legislation may be considered today, Tom DeLay, the House Majority Leader, said. "We should investigate every avenue before we take the life of a living human being," said Mr DeLay, a Texas Republican.

The measure would take Ms Schiavo's fate out of Florida state courts, where judges ordered the feeding tube removed on Friday, and allow her parents to take their case to a federal judge.

Mr DeLay said that would likely mean restoration of the feeding tube "for as long as this appeal endures".

The development was the latest in an epic right-to-die battle between Ms Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, and her husband, Michael Schiavo, over whether she should be permitted to die or kept alive by the feeding tube. Doctors say Ms Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state with no hope of recovery. Her husband has insisted she never wanted to live in such a condition.

Passage of the measure through Congress would require only a handful of lawmakers.President Bush, who has said he favours a "presumption of life" for Ms Schiavo, would also have to sign the bill into law.

Court-appointed physicians testified her brain damage was so severe that there was no hope she would ever have any cognitive abilities.

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