Terri Schiavo, the severely brain-damaged woman whose 15 years on a feeding tube sparked an epic legal battle that went all the way to the White House and Congress, died Thursday, 13 days after the tube was removed. She was 41.
Schiavo died at the Pinellas Park hospice where she lay for years while her husband and her parents fought over whether to let her die or not.
Her death was confirmed to The Associated Press by Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, and announced to reporters outside her hospice by a family adviser.
Brother Paul O'Donnell, an adviser to Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, said the parents and their two other children "were denied access at the moment of her death. They've been requesting, as you know, for the last hour to try to be in there and they were denied access by Michael Schiavo. They are in there now, praying at her bedside."
Schiavo suffered severe brain damage in 1990 after her heart stopped because of a chemical imbalance that was believed to have been brought on an eating disorder. Court-appointed doctors ruled she was in a persistent vegetative state, with no real consciousness or chance of recovery.
The feeding tube was removed with a judge's approval March 18 after Michael Schiavo argued that his wife told him long ago she would not want to be kept alive artificially. His in-laws disputed that, and argued that she could get better with treatment.
During the seven-year legal battle, Florida lawmakers, Congress and President George W. Bush tried to intervene on behalf of her parents, but state and federal courts at all levels repeatedly ruled in favor of her husband.
After the tube that supplied a nutrient solution was disconnected, protesters streamed into Pinellas Park to keep vigil outside her hospice, with many arrested as they tried to bring her food and water. The Vatican likened the removal of her feeding tube to capital punishment for an innocent woman.
The Schindlers pleaded for their daughter's life, calling the removal of the tube "judicial homicide."
MIKE SCHNEIDER Associated Press Writer