The presiding judge in the case of 41-year old Terri Schiavo ruled Friday that the feeding tube keeping the severely disabled woman alive must be removed, about one hour after another judge temporarily blocked the tube's removal.
According to the Associated Press, Pinellas Circuit Judge George Greer refused a request from U.S. House attorneys to delay the removal, which he had previously ordered to take place at 1 p.m. EST. Stating that he "had no cogent reason why the (congressional) committee should intervene," Greer determined that the tube removal should go forward. His order came about an hour after Pinellas Circuit Court Judge David Demers issued a temporary block on the removal of Schiavos feeding tube.
Outside the Woodside Hospice in Pinellas Park where Terri resides, about 30 people keeping vigil dropped to their knees in prayer when word spread of Greer's ruling.
"What can wash away our sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus," they sang, as reported by the AP. Messages on protest signs included "Impeach Greer.com," a reference to the judge, and "Execution It's Not Just for the Guilty Anymore."
In Washington, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) told reporters that removal of the tube amounted to "barbarism" that the hearings would at least temporarily prevent.
"Terry Schiavo is alive. She's as alive as you and I. As such, we have a moral obligation to protect and defend her," said DeLay, according to AP. "This is not over."
There was no immediate word on when the tube might be removed and the starvation process would begin. However, AP reported that attorneys seeking to block the removal vowed to appeal.
After she collapsed at her home 15 years ago, Terri Schiavo has in recent years come to symbolize the heart of the pro-life movement.
Having been in what courts call a persistent vegetative state, Schiavo has been fed through a feeding and nutrition tube twice a day to maintain her life. And for nearly a decade her husband, Michael, has sought the removal of her tube, claiming she did not want to be kept alive artificially. To date, Michael Schiavo has twice been granted permission to remove the feeding tube that keeps her alive, and twice has had her death interrupted by legal maneuvers.
Schiavos parentsBob and Mary Schindlerhave struggled to keep their daughter alive, arguing that their son-in-law was trying to rush their daughters death so he could inherit her estate and marry his live-in girlfriend with whom he has fathered two children. According to reports, Michael Schiavo never mentioned his wife's supposed wishes until after the couple was awarded more than $1 million in medical malpractice claimswhich he stood to inherit that money if his wife died.
The Schindlers also argue that even if their daughter had said before that she would not want to be kept alive artificiallyas her husband claimsas a Roman Catholic, she would have changed her mind, after hearing Pope John Paul II say last year that removing a feeding tube from a patient like Terri would be euthanasia by omission.