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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 October, 2003, 20:02 GMT 21:02 UK
US brain-damage woman gets fluids
Terri Schiavo. Archive picture
Terri Schiavo was moved from a hospice to a hospital
Doctors in a Florida hospital have begun giving fluids to a severely brain-damaged woman at the centre of a fierce right-to-die battle.

They are acting on controversial orders issued by State Governor Jeb Bush in line with her natural family's wishes.

A tube feeding Terri Schiavo, 39, was removed last week but the doctors at Morton Plant Hospital have now begun rehydrating her intravenously in preparation for its re-insertion.

The lawyer for her husband, who insists she would not want to continue living in the state she is in, condemned the decision to revive her as "abduction from the deathbed".

Mrs Schiavo has been incapacitated since she collapsed at home in 1990 and has been kept alive artificially despite evidence from doctors that she will never recover.

She has been at the centre of a bitter court battle between her husband Michael, who says his wife told him she would never want to be kept alive, and her family who insist she can be rehabilitated.

'Trampled upon'

Following the governor's orders, an ambulance took Mrs Schiavo from a hospice in Pinellas Park where she had been cared for to the hospital.

The final decision should come from the husband, as she told him her wish.
Tracey, UK

"I'm ecstatic she's being fed again," her brother Bob Schindler Jnr was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

"I don't think I can describe the way I feel right now. It's been unreal."

Earlier, Mrs Schiavo's father - Bob Schindler - said Mr Bush's order "restored my belief in God".

But George Felos, the lawyer for her husband, said that the law passed giving Governor Bush the power to intervene represented "an absolute trampling of her personal rights and her dignity".

"We believe that a court sooner or later - we hope sooner - will find this law to be unconstitutional," he told NBC's Today show.

Nation divided

If Mrs Schiavo's feeding tube had not been reconnected, doctors expected her to die within the next week.

The controversial new law - known as Terri's Law - was approved by the Florida State House of Representatives by 73-24 after the Senate passed it 23-15.

Governor Jeb Bush has power to intervene when:
Someone is in a persistent vegetative state
The person left no living will
Feeding tubes have been removed
A family member has challenged the decision

The bill was tailored to Mrs Schiavo's case and Governor Bush said in a statement that lawmakers understood "the unique and tragic circumstances" involved.

The issue split lawmakers, with some like Senator Tom Lee saying that leaving Mrs Schiavo essentially to starve to death was "pretty awful".

Opponents such as Representative Dan Gelber worried that the bill set a dangerous precedent: "This bill so oversteps our role it... turns democracy on its head."

The case has caused national controversy. The Florida Supreme Court has twice declined to take on the case and the US Supreme Court has also refused to become involved.

Mrs Schiavo's parents had insisted she could be rehabilitated with therapy, adding that she had shown signs of trying to communicate.

However, doctors had testified in court that the noises and facial expressions Mrs Schiavo made were merely reflexes and that her brain is damaged beyond repair.

The BBC's Daniella Relph
"Her parents always insisted she was responsive"

Food stopped to US coma woman
15 Oct 03 |  Americas
Fight over Florida woman's fate
01 Oct 03 |  Americas
Right to die: Who should decide?
22 Oct 03 |  Have Your Say

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