Page last updated at 02:39 GMT, Monday, 21 March 2005

US Congress acts on Schiavo case

File photo of Terri Schiavo
Mrs Schiavo has been in a vegetative state for 15 years

The US Senate has approved legislation designed to force doctors to keep a severely brain-damaged woman alive.

Terri Schiavo has been in a vegetative state for 15 years. Her feeding tube was removed on Friday after a state court approved her husband's request.

The House of Representatives is now due to vote on the bill, which would allow a federal court to review the case.

President Bush has cut short a holiday to sign the legislation as soon as it has been approved.

Following the Florida state ruling on Friday, Congressional leaders convened a special session to vote on a bill designed to keep Terri Schiavo alive.

Please, please, please, save my little girl
Mary Schindler
Terri Schiavo's mother
The senate unanimously approved the legislation on Sunday.

But when the House convened, some Democrats said they were not prepared to circumvent House rules and allow the session to begin on a simple voice vote.

The BBC's James Coomarasamy in Washington says many Democrats are concerned Congress is setting a worrying precedent by becoming so involved in the tragedy of one family, split between a husband who wants his wife to die with dignity and relatives who believe she can still lead a fulfilling life.

Rival pleas

On Friday, doctors removed the feeding tube keeping Mrs Schiavo, 41, alive, following a ruling by a Florida court.

She is expected to die within two weeks if the decision is not overturned.

Activists outside Terry Schiavo's hospice in Florida
The case has galvanised activists
Mrs Schiavo lapsed into a persistent vegetative state after her heart stopped beating temporarily in 1990.

Her parents have spent seven years fighting to keep her alive. Her husband Michael, her legal guardian, has petitioned to let her die.

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

"I think that the Congress has more important things to discuss," he said on Sunday.

"I'm outraged... that this government is trampling all over a personal family matter that has been adjudicated in the courts for seven years," he told CNN.

Mrs Schiavo's mother, for her part, pleaded with officials and lawmakers to save her daughter's life.

"Please, please, please, save my little girl," Mary Schindler said outside the Florida hospice where her daughter lives.

Supporters kept up their vigil outside the building.

Three people were arrested after they symbolically tried to smuggle in bread and water, the Associated Press reports.

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

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

video and audio news
Terry Schiavo's husband says his rights are being ignored

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