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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 March, 2005, 04:35 GMT
US patient's feeding tube removed
File photo of Terri Schiavo
Mrs Schiavo's husband and parents have been fighting for years
The feeding tube that keeps a brain-damaged US woman alive has been taken out after a lengthy court battle.

Doctors in Florida removed Terri Schiavo's feeding tube on Friday, after a judge rejected an attempt by Congress Republicans to delay the move.

Mrs Schiavo, 41, is expected to die within two weeks if the decision is not overturned and the tube reinserted.

House of Representatives lawyers have filed an appeal with the US Supreme Court, asking justices to intervene.

The court has repeatedly refused to do so in the case.

Mrs Schiavo's parents have spent seven years fighting to keep her alive, while her husband Michael, her legal guardian, has petitioned to let her die.

Court-appointed doctors say that Mrs Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state, and will not recover.

Michael Schiavo, who has since started a family with another woman, says his wife would not want to be kept alive in her current condition.

Activists' dismay

Mrs Schiavo's parents were "devastated", their lawyer said after the tube was removed.

In instances like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws and our courts should have a presumption in favour of life
George W Bush

Outside the hospice, hundreds of protesters who opposed an end to her life support held silent vigils.

Legal wrangling came to a head on Friday because an earlier court ruling had said the feeding tube could be removed at 1300 local time (1800GMT) on that day.

It was actually removed about 45 minutes later, Michael Schiavo's lawyer George Felos said. Mr Schiavo was at his wife's side shortly afterwards, the lawyer said.

The US Senate had intervened earlier in the day by issuing subpoenas ordering Mr and Mrs Schiavo to testify before one of its committees later this month.

Supporters of Terri Schiavo's right to live protesting against a court order to remove her feeding tube
Activists have demonstrated outside Schiavo's hospice

Senate Majority leader Bill Frist said in a statement the move was intended to keep her alive.

The House of Representatives passed a separate measure to block removal of the feeding tube.

But the judge who has handled the case for years rejected the power of Congress to force a delay.

'White House watching'

Florida courts have consistently rejected efforts by the parents to stop the feeding tube being removed - a fact cited by the judge on Friday.

The feeding tube has been removed twice before. Both times campaigners managed to have it replaced.

The case has galvanised activists from both sides of the euthanasia debate.

President George W Bush's spokesman said the White House was watching the developments in Florida.

"The president believes that when there are serious questions or doubts in a case like this, that the presumption ought to be in the favour of life," Scott McClellan said.

Mrs Schiavo suffered brain damage after her heart stopped because of a chemical imbalance believed to have been brought on by an eating disorder.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
The circumstances surrounding the court case



SEE ALSO:
Judge rules on US hospital fight
25 Feb 05 |  Americas
Extension in US right-to-die case
23 Feb 05 |  Americas
Court backs Florida right to die
25 Jan 05 |  Americas
Florida steps in to hospital case
21 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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