As Terri Schiavo's health waned, a federal judge refused to order the reinsertion of her feeding tube Friday, thwarting another move from the brain-damaged woman's parents in their battle to keep her alive in what may be the longest, most heavily litigated right-to-die case in U.S. history.
The tube was removed a week ago on a state judge's order that agreed with Schiavo's husband, Michael, who has said she has no hope for recovery and wouldn't want to be kept alive artificially. Her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, believe their daughter could improve and wouldn't want to die.
Terri Schiavo, 41, suffered brain damage in 1990 when her heart stopped briefly from a chemical imbalance believed to have been brought on by an eating disorder. She left no living will, but her husband argued that she told him she would not want to be kept alive artificially. Her parents dispute that, and contend she could get better.
As of Friday morning, she had been without food or water for almost seven days and was showing signs of dehydration _ flaky skin, dry tongue and lips, and sunken eyes, according to attorneys and friends of the Schindlers. Doctors have said she would probably die within a week or two of the tube being pulled.
She has now been off the tube longer than she was in 2003, when the tube was removed for six days and five hours. It was reinserted when the Legislature passed a law later thrown out by the courts.
The Schindlers' emergency request to have the feeding tube reattached included claims that Schiavo's religious and due-process rights were violated.
For a second time, U.S. District Judge James Whittemore ruled against the Schindlers, who had asked him to grant their emergency request to restore her feeding tube while he considers a lawsuit they filed.
Earlier Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court, without explanation, refused to order the feeding tube reinserted. The case worked its way through the federal courts and reached the Supreme Court after Congress passed an extraordinary law over the weekend to let the Schindlers take their case to federal court.
"It's very frustrating. Every minute that goes by is a minute that Terri is being starved and dehydrated to death," said her brother, Bobby Schindler, who said seeing her was like looking at "pictures of prisoners in concentration camps."
Michael Schiavo's brother, Brian Schiavo, strongly disagreed with that assessment, telling CNN that Terri Schiavo "does look a little withdrawn" but insisting she was not in pain. He added that starvation is simply "part of the death process."
Thursday, a lawyer for Michael Schiavo said he hoped the woman's parents and the governor would finally give up their fight.
"We believe it's time for that to stop as we approach this Easter weekend and that Mrs. Schiavo be able to die in peace," attorney George Felos said.
On Thursday, Pinellas Circuit Judge George Greer denied Gov. Jeb Bush's request to let the state take Terri Schiavo into protective custody. Bush, continuing his steadfast support of the Schindlers, appealed to the 2nd District Court of Appeal.
"Jeb Bush does not own the state of Florida and just cannot impose his will on Terri Schiavo," George Felos, attorney for Michael Schiavo, told CBS' "The Early Show" on Friday.
Yet there some Schindler family supporters still insist the governor has not done enough.
"We believe our only hope is Governor Bush and I know Governor Bush has been on the media saying his hands are tied," Paul O'Donnell, a Franciscan monk, told CNN after Whittemore's ruling was announced. "But according to our legal experts, he still has the power to take Terri into protective custody."
Thursday evening, a man was arrested after he went to a gun store in Seminole and threatened its owner with a box cutter while demanding a weapon to "rescue" Terri Schiavo, the Pinellas County sheriff's office said.
In his ruling, Greer said an affidavit from a neurologist who believes that Schiavo is "minimally conscious" was not enough to set aside his decision to allow the withdrawal of food and water.
"By clear and convincing evidence, it was determined she did not want to live under such burdensome conditions and that she would refuse such medical treatment-assistance," Greer wrote.