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Schiavo's fate still hangs in balance -

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Schiavo's fate still hangs in balance

Reporter: Jill Colgan

KERRY O'BRIEN: To the US now and the life and death drama over severely brain-damaged Terri
Schiavo. For seven years, her husband and parents have fought through the courts and finally
through the Congress and even the White House, over whether she should live or die. After a
two-hour hearing in the Federal Court today early our time, once again Terri Schiavo's fate was
still in the balance. She's been bedridden unable even to feed herself for 15 years. And after the
most recent court ruling, has been without her feeding tube since Friday. At the heart of this
case, the bitterly emotional debate over right to life with far wider ramifications than this one
tragedy. Jill Colgan reports from Washington.

JILL COLGAN: Congress should have been quiet, after all it's the March recess. Instead, in an
extraordinary move, 261 members of Congress flew back into Washington on a late-night mission to
help pass legislation aimed at just one woman.

THE SPEAKER: The bill is passed.

JILL COLGAN: This woman. Now 41 years of age, Terri Schiavo has been severely disabled since 1990
when a heart attack starved her brain of oxygen. Her parents and siblings have fought to keep her
alive, insisting these videos show she's not brain dead. But her husband, Michael, says her doctors
have confirmed she's in a permanent vegetative state.

MICHAEL SCHIAVO, HUSBAND: Terri does not receive pain. The cortex in her brain is gone. She cannot
perceive pain. She doesn't feel. She doesn't think.

JILL COLGAN: Michael Schiavo has been cast as the villain in this piece. For the last seven years,
he has fought his wife's family to remove Terri's feeding tube and let her die.

MICHAEL SCHIAVO: There has been multitudes of doctors that have seen Terri in the last 15 years.
There had to be at least over 100-150 doctors that have seen her and nobody has ever come back and
said that she's not in a persistent vegetative state.

JILL COLGAN: The couple met at college, married in 1984 and had six happy years together.

MICHAEL SCHIAVO: She had this persona, this aura about her that just attracted you. The beautiful
smile. I mean, shy and outgoing at the same time. She loved kids. We wanted to have a house full,
just to have a happy, little normal life. We weren't into the glimmer and the shine. We just wanted
a nice little comfortable life together.

JILL COLGAN: But an eating disorder is suspected of prompting the heart attack that led to her
severe brain injury. Michael Schiavo claims his wife had told him she didn't want to be kept alive
if ever she fell into that condition. Just last Friday he won his court battle to let her die. A
Florida judge ordered her feeding tube removed and without sustenance she has just days to live.
But this fight is larger than Terri Schiavo.

MAN: I am outraged. I am angry. An innocent person cannot be starved to death in this country.

JILL COLGAN: It pits those who believe in the right to life against those who believe in the right
to die.

of fundamentalist movement in this country believes very strongly in a broad definition of life and
they really believe this is murder. They really believe that she is a living being, breathing on
her own and that the Florida courts are going to allow her to be starved to death.

JILL COLGAN: Her case has taken on a life of its own. Protesters were arrested as they tried to
break into her hospice to give her water.

PROTESTER: We are going through such a trial here, Lord God.

JILL COLGAN: It's a deeply personal fight for her family, but for Right to Life activists, it's
also a chance to move one step closer to protecting all stages of life, including protection for an
unborn foetus from abortion. Cutting short a vacation in Texas, America's conservative Christian
President flew into Washington to sign the newly passed legislation into law. It overrides the
Florida state court, giving Terri Schiavo's parents the right to take the case to a Federal Court,
breathing new life into their legal struggle.

GEORGE W. BUSH, US PRESIDENT: Democrats and Republicans and Congress came together last night to
give Terri Schiavo's parents another opportunity to save their daughter's life. This is a complex
case with serious issues, but in extraordinary circumstances like this, it is wise to always err on
the side of life.

JILL COLGAN: For Terri Schiavo's family, it's been an enormous relief.

SUZANNE VITADAMO, SISTER: We are very, very, very thankful to have crossed this bridge and we're
very hopeful, very hopeful that the Federal courts will follow the will of Congress and save my
sister's life.

MICHAEL SCHIAVO: We went through the court systems for seven years. There's no doubts here. Twenty
judges have heard this. The United States Supreme Court has heard this. There's no doubts here and
Mr Bush should be ashamed of himself.

JILL COLGAN: For Michael Schiavo it's a bitter defeat that carries implications well beyond his own

MICHAEL SCHIAVO: This is a sad day for Terri, but I tell you what it's also a sad day for every
person in this country because the US Government is going to come in and trample all over your
personal, family matters and they don't care.

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR STEPHEN WERMIEL: Out of nowhere a decision that is a deeply personal decision
that the law commits to the next of kin, a family member, the husband in this case, that suddenly
that decision will be kind of intruded upon by the full weight of the government of the state of
Florida and the government of the entire US is a scary thing.

JILL COLGAN: Critics say Congress has overstepped the mark; that this was a decision for the
Florida courts and for Terri Schiavo's doctors. There are fears that changing the law because
Congress didn't like the outcome in court, could undermine the judicial system and set a dangerous
precedent for law-makers.

CHRIS SHAYS, REPUBLICAN, CONNECTICUT: How deep is this Congress going to reach? How deep is this
Congress going to reach into the personal lives of each and every one of us?

TRENT FRANKS, REPUBLICAN, ARIZONA: Protecting the lives of our innocent citizens and their
constitutional rights is why we are all here.

JILL COLGAN: Michael Schiavo now has another woman in his life and two children, but he refuses to
divorce Terri and remove himself as next of kin.

MICHAEL SCHIAVO: I made a promise to Terri. I love my wife and Terri is not an inanimate object,
she's not a piece of furniture you pass back and forth. Terri is my family also and I'll be by her
side every step of the way.

JILL COLGAN: Both sides of her family say they want the best for Terri Schiavo, but without a
living will, a testament to her wishes, she's helpless to influence the outcome of her own fate.

KERRY O'BRIEN: It's not immediately clear when the Federal District Court will now make its ruling.
Jill Colgan with that report from Washington.