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Schiavo given last rites

A large group of photographers document a protester placing a rose on the sidewalk outside Michael Schiavo's house Sunday afternoon. 
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
A large group of photographers document a protester placing a rose on the sidewalk outside Michael Schiavo's house Sunday afternoon. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Mike Schneider Associated Press

PINELLAS PARK, Fla – Their hopes fading and legal options exhausted, Terri Schiavo’s parents appeared quietly resigned Sunday to watching her die but could claim one Easter victory: The severely brain-damaged woman received a drop of communion wine on her tongue – her only sustenance in nine days – after her husband allowed her to receive the sacrament.

Outside the hospice where Schiavo is being cared for, five protesters were arrested, and about a half-dozen people in wheelchairs got out of them and lay in the driveway, shouting “We’re not dead yet!”

Schiavo’s husband, who a day earlier denied a request from his wife’s parents that she be given communion, granted permission Sunday to offer the sacrament.

The Rev. Thaddeus Malanowski said he gave Schiavo wine but could not give her a fleck of communion bread because her tongue was dry. He also administered the last rites, anointing her with holy oil and giving a blessing. Schiavo last received both sacraments on March 18, just before her feeding tube was removed.

The priest’s announcement drew applause and cheers from the crowd, which spent most of the day heckling police and protesting loudly. The noise prompted Schiavo’s brother, Bobby Schindler, to come out and ask protesters to tone down their behavior.

“We are not going to solve the problem today by getting arrested,” he told the restless crowd. “We can change laws, but we are not going to change them today. … You are not speaking for our family.”

Schiavo’s husband and parents have battled for years over whether the 41-year-old woman wanted to live or die. The two sides have given differing opinions of her status. Her parents have said she is declining rapidly and in her last hours. George Felos, an attorney for Schiavo’s husband, Michael, argued Saturday that her condition is not yet that grave.

A spokesman for the Schindlers denied a report from David Gibbs III, their lead lawyer, who told CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday that Schiavo has “passed where physically she would be able to recover.”

That statement “was not made with the family’s knowledge. In the family’s opinion, that is absolutely not true,” family spokesman Randall Terry told reporters.

Felos declined to comment on Schiavo’s condition.

Mary Schindler did not visit her daughter on Easter, her emotions keeping her from the hospice, said Paul O’Donnell, a Roman Catholic Franciscan monk and a family spokesman. It was the first time Mary Schindler did not go in the room since the tube was pulled.

“She could change her mind, but right now, it makes her physically ill to go in there,” O’Donnell said. “If she goes in there again, we might have to take her to the hospital.”

At Michael Schiavo’s home in Clearwater, about three dozen protesters dropped roses and Easter lilies on his lawn in a peaceful demonstration. His fiancee’s brother picked up the flowers and handed them to a bystander to take away.

Doctors have said Terri Schiavo would probably die within a week or two of the tube being removed March 18. She relied on the tube for 15 years after suffering catastrophic brain damage when her heart stopped beating and oxygen was cut off to her brain.

Schiavo’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, have maintained their daughter is not in a persistent vegetative state as court-appointed doctors have determined. Michael Schiavo has said his wife told him that she would not want to be kept alive artificially.

The Schindlers said they would stop asking courts to intervene after the Florida Supreme Court rejected their most recent appeal Saturday. The parents were rebuffed repeatedly by federal courts after Congress passed an extraordinary law last weekend allowing the case to be heard by federal judges.

About 100 protesters gathered at the hospice Sunday, ignoring the Schindlers’ request that they spend Easter Sunday with their families. Bob Schindler told reporters the protesters were welcome back today.

“People are getting emotional,” said the Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Washington-based Christian Defense Coalition. “A woman is starving to death, but we want to focus on Terri, not on us.” Mahoney said he planned to ask congressional leaders today to act to keep Schiavo alive.

Police have arrested 38 people in the past week, most for trying to bring Schiavo water.

Supporters of the Schindlers continued their demands Sunday for Gov. Jeb Bush to intervene.

“Terri is in effect on death row. … We’re asking the governor for a stay of execution on Easter Sunday,” said Larry Klayman, founder of the conservative legal group Judicial Watch.

Bush told CNN on Sunday that he has done all he can in the case, as he has said for several days.

“I cannot violate a court order,” he said. “I don’t have powers from the United States Constitution or, for that matter, from the Florida Constitution, that would allow me to intervene after a decision has been made.”

At least two more appeals were pending by the state and Bush, but those challenges were before the state 2nd District Court of Appeal, which has rebuffed the governor’s previous efforts in the case. It was unclear when the court would rule.

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