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Judge denies request to reinsert Terri Schiavo's feeding tube
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A federal judge has denied a request by Terri Schiavo's parents to have her feeding tube reinserted. The parents have filed an appeal to that decision. (Photo by Matt May/Getty Images)

Tampa, Fla. — (AP) - A federal judge on Tuesday refused to order the reinsertion of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube, denying an emergency request from the brain-damaged woman's parents that had been debated in Congress and backed by the White House.

U.S. District Judge James Whittemore said the 41-year-old woman's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, had not established a "substantial likelihood of success" at trial on the merits of their arguments.

Whittemore wrote that Schiavo's "life and liberty interests" had been protected by Florida courts. Despite "these difficult and time-strained circumstances," he wrote, "this court is constrained to apply the law to the issues before it."

A notice of appeal was electronically filed hours later Tuesday morning with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta by David Gibbs III, an attorney representing Terri Schiavo's parents.

The notice tells the court that the full appeal will follow. That court was already considering an appeal on whether Terri Schiavo's right to due process had been violated.

Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, praised the ruling: "What this judge did is protect the freedom of people to make their own end-of-life decisions without the intrusion of politicians."

Bobby Schindler, Terri Schiavo's brother, said his family was crushed. "To have to see my parents go through this is absolutely barbaric," he told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Tuesday. "I'd love for these judges to sit in a room and see this happening as well."

But Scott Schiavo, brother of Terri's husband, Michael, called the judge's decision "a good thing," and said he did not believe Congress should have intervened.

"There's not a law that's made for this," Scott Schiavo told The AP in a telephone interview. "This is something that goes on 100 times a day in our country, that people, their wish to die with dignity is not a federal issue."

Attempts to reach Bob Schindler were unsuccessful early Tuesday. George Felos, the attorney for Michael Schiavo, hung up twice when reached by reporters from The Associated Press.

Whittemore's decision comes after feverish action by President Bush and Congress on legislation allowing the brain-damaged woman's contentious case to be reviewed by federal courts.

The tube was disconnected Friday on the orders of a state judge, prompting an extraordinary weekend effort by congressional Republicans to push through unprecedented emergency legislation Monday aimed at keeping her alive.

Gov. Jeb Bush was described by a spokeswoman as "extremely disappointed and saddened" over the judge's decision not to order the tube reconnected. "Gov. Bush will continue to do what he legally can within his powers to protect Terri Schiavo, a vulnerable person," said the spokeswoman, Alia Faraj.

Terri Schiavo did not have a living will. Her husband has fought in courts for years to have the tube removed because he said she would not want to be kept alive artificially and she has no hope for recovery. Her parents contend she responds to them and her condition could improve.

Gibbs, the parents' attorney, argued at a Monday hearing in front of Whittemore that forcing Terri Schiavo to starve would be "a mortal sin" under her Roman Catholic beliefs and urged quick action: "Terri may die as I speak."

But Felos, an attorney for Michael Schiavo, argued that keeping the woman alive also violated her rights and noted that the case has been aired thoroughly in state courts.

"Yes, life is sacred," Felos said, contending that restarting artificial feedings would be against Schiavo's wishes. "So is liberty, particularly in this country."

Michael Schiavo said he was outraged that lawmakers and the president intervened in a private matter. "When Terri's wishes are carried out, it will be her wish. She will be at peace. She will be with the Lord," he said on CNN's "Larry King Live" late Monday.

Terri Schiavo suffered brain damage in 1990 when her heart stopped briefly. Her collapse was later linked to a potassium imbalance believed to have been brought on by an eating disorder. A successful malpractice lawsuit argued that doctors had failed to diagnose the eating disorder. She can breathe on her own, but has relied on the feeding tube to keep her alive.

Court-appointed doctors say she is in a persistent vegetative state with no hope of recovery, while her parents insist she could recover with treatment. Doctors have said Schiavo could survive one to two weeks without the feeding tube.

According to a CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll of 909 adults taken over the weekend, nearly six in 10 people said they think the feeding tube should be removed and felt they would want to remove it for a child or spouse in the same condition.

On Tuesday, reaction to the judge's decision from the handful of protesters outside the woman's hospice came quickly. "It's terrible. They're going to talk and talk and she's going to die," said Miriam Zlotolow, 59, of Venice, Calif.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)