– The Orlando Sentinel

ORLANDO, Fla. – The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday rejected Gov. Jeb Bush’s request to reconsider its ruling to strike down the law that allowed him to keep Terri Schiavo alive.

Issued without comment, the unanimous one-page order paves the way for the removal of the feeding tube that sustains the severely brain-damaged woman, which would allow her to die after a six-year legal battle between her husband and her parents.

When – or if – that will actually happen, however, remains up in the air.

The timing depends on both the governor’s next move, which was uncertain Thursday, and on a lower court’s decision on a new issue raised by Schiavo’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler.

Last month, the Schindlers asked the same judge who ruled four years ago there was convincing evidence the Clearwater woman did not want to be kept alive artificially to reconsider that decision based on her religious convictions and a recent papal pronouncement. His ruling is expected today.

Meanwhile, the governor, expressing his disappointment with Thursday’s decision during a visit to Orlando, gave every indication he would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, as his attorney has often suggested he would.

“I personally don’t want to be a party to removing a feeding tube that causes us to take an innocent life,” the governor said.

“On death row, it takes 20 years for the appeals process to end, and the state spends hundreds of thousands of dollars before it allows a convicted felon to be executed. I would hope that we would take as much care when it comes to an innocent life.”

Should the governor appeal, his action would not necessarily halt the withdrawal of Schiavo’s feeding tube – unless he requests and wins a stay in another lower-court proceeding.

That’s because the U.S. Supreme Court would not be asked to decide whether Schiavo should live or die, but whether the year-old law that allowed Bush to intervene in her husband’s legal battle to end his wife’s life was constitutional.

The state’s high court last month overturned the law, saying it violated the separation of powers between the state’s branches of government by giving the governor the discretion to set aside a court ruling.

The Florida Legislature passed the measure, widely known as Terri’s Law, last October, six days after Schiavo’s husband, Michael, won a court order authorizing the withdrawal of his wife’s feeding tube.

Michael Schiavo’s attorney said his client was pleased with Thursday’s ruling and, although he could have his wife’s feeding tube withdrawn as early as today, Michael Schiavo would wait until the religious issue raised by his in-laws is settled.

Attorney George Felos added, however, that his client was eager to bring his wife’s long saga to a close. Now 40, Terri Schiavo fell into what doctors say is a persistent vegetative state after collapsing from cardiac arrest 14 years ago.

Though she never wrote down her wishes in the event she became incapacitated, her husband said she made them clear in casual conversations: She never wanted to be kept alive artificially, unaware of her surroundings, unable to think or talk or dream.

“We should all be outraged that her wishes have been delayed and delayed for so long,” Felos said.

“The court has determined by clear and convincing evidence that this poor woman did not want to be kept by artificial means and she – and every other Floridian – has a constitutional right to have their wishes carried out.”

Neither the Schindlers nor their attorney could be reached for comment Thursday. The couple has long questioned their son-in-law’s motives and insisted that, with proper treatment, their daughter could be rehabilitated enough to learn to swallow again, ending her forced feedings.

Unless the U.S. Supreme Court intervenes, which many constitutional scholars say is unlikely, the Schindlers’ last hope of caring for her themselves appears to have come full circle back to Pinellas Circuit Judge George Greer.

Last month, the Schindlers asked the probate judge who previously had ordered their daughter’s tube removed to consider new evidence they say should cancel his prior decisions: Pope John Paul II’s recent statement that it is morally wrong to withhold food and water to anyone in a vegetative state.

The Schindlers contend their daughter’s Catholic upbringing and religious convictions were so strong that she would never make any decision that would violate the pope’s teachings.

They are asking Greer to hold a minitrial to determine if his previous decision should be set aside, and Terri Schiavo should be allowed to live.

Greer is expected to rule by late Friday.

(c) 2004, The Orlando Sentinel (Fla.).

Visit the Sentinel on the World Wide Web at http://www.orlandosentinel.com/. On America Online, use keyword: OSO.

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-10-22-04 1241EDT

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