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Last Updated: Friday, 25 February, 2005, 22:18 GMT
Judge rules on US hospital fight
File photo of Terri Schiavo
Terri Schiavo's husband says she would want her tube removed
A brain-damaged US woman at the centre of a bitter family dispute can have her feeding tube removed in three weeks' time, a US judge has ruled.

The decision came 15 years to the day since Terri Schiavo suffered a heart attack that left her incapacitated.

A bitter seven-year dispute has raged between Mrs Schiavo's parents and her husband, who is fighting to have her feeding tube removed.

Pending an appeal, the tube will be removed on 18 March.

Mrs Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, had spent much of the week presenting arguments to the Florida court to support their application for further tests on their daughter's condition.

The couple say that despite her reliance on a feeding tube, Mrs Schiavo has shown signs of independent mental and physical capacities - a "minimally conscious state" - and could improve with treatment.

Some doctors insist Mrs Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state and is unlikely to recover.

New tests

Mr Schiavo, who has started a family with another woman, remains Terri Schiavo's legal guardian. He says his wife told him she never wanted to be kept alive artificially.

The case has become a touchstone for disabled rights campaigners and right-to-die campaigners.

Circuit Court Judge George Greer, who ordered the removal of the tube five years ago, insisted he would not order another stay and that the tube could be removed in three weeks.

But on two previous occasions Mrs Schiavo's tube was actually removed, only to be re-inserted on appeal several days later.

Mr and Mrs Schindler aim to use the three-week delay to pursue additional tests to support their position. They also wanted Mr Schiavo removed as their daughter's guardian.

Florida officials are also understood to be investigating whether Mrs Schiavo has been denied appropriate medical care.

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