The Supreme Court refused today to order Terri Schiavo's feeding tube reinserted, rejecting a desperate appeal by her parents to keep their severely brain-damaged daughter alive.
The decision, announced in a terse one-page order, marked the end of a dramatic and disheartening four-day dash through the federal court system by Bob and Mary Schindler.
Justices did not explain their decision, which was at least the fifth time they have declined to get involved in the Schiavo case.
The feeding tube that has been keeping Schiavo alive at a hospice in Pinellas Park, Fla., was removed last Friday. Doctors at the time said that unless it is reinserted she will die in a week or two.
The high court's decision was the latest in a string of losses in state and federal courts for the Schindlers, who say their 41-year-old daughter faces an unjust and imminent death based on a decision by her husband to halt nourishment without proof of her consent.
The Schindlers' emergency high court filing also argued that Congress intended for Schiavo's tube to be reinserted, at least temporarily, when it passed an extraordinary bill last weekend giving federal courts authority to fully review her case.
In his response, Michael Schiavo urged justices not to intervene because his wife's case already has been endlessly litigated and at each turn courts have sided with him.
His filing also argued that Congress violated the Constitution when it passed the bill because the action was improperly intended to overturn state court rulings on the matter.
"That is not an exercise of legislative power, but trial by legislature," the filing said.
The Schindlers' appeal went first to Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan appointee who has staked a moderate position on social issues. Kennedy has responsibility in the first instance for cases emanating from the Southern district that is home to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. He referred the Schiavo case to the full nine-member court.
The court's decision was not surprising. Not only had justices repeatedly declined to intervene in the Schiavo case on prior occasions, but they routinely defer to state courts on family law issues. Judges in various Florida courts have sided with Schiavo's husband in the 15 years since she suffered brain damage.
The issue before the high court was whether Schiavo's tube should be reinserted while her case is fully reviewed in the lower courts.
Justices could have ruled in favor of the parents if they had found a "substantial likelihood" the Schindlers would win on the merits or that Congress intended for Schiavo to remain attached to a feeding tube during the federal court review called for in the bill passed last weekend.
The court could also have sided with the parents if, as the Justice Department argued in a "statement of interest" in the case, a federal law known as the All Writs Act were interpreted to empower federal courts to temporarily grant the emergency request -- regardless of the merits of the case -- simply to protect their "jurisdiction."