| Terri Schiavo's sister Suzanne in Pinellas Park, Florida. (Reuters)
Pinellas Park (Florida), March 24 (Reuters): The US Supreme Court today rejected a plea from the parents of a brain-damaged Florida woman to order her feeding tube reconnected, dealing a sharp blow to their seven-year legal fight to prolong their daughter's life.
The highest US court denied without comment a request made late yesterday by Bob and Mary Schindler for an emergency order to restart nutrition for Terri Schiavo, whose feeding tube was removed six days ago.
With the parents' hopes of prolonging Schiavo's life now all but closed, a Florida court was considering a petition from a state government agency to take custody of Schiavo.
Schiavo, a 41-year-old woman who suffered brain damage from a heart attack when she was 26, had her feeding tube removed last Friday under a state court order.
She had been expected to live a week to two weeks after the tube's removal and the battle over whether she should live or die, played out as a wrenching legal dispute between her parents and her husband, has snowballed into an emotional and highly politicised drama.
The parents went to the Supreme Court after their request for a resumption of feeding was rebuffed on Tuesday and yesterday by a federal judge in Florida, a three-judge panel at the 11th US circuit court of appeals in Atlanta and that court's full bench.
'If the tube is not reinserted by order of this court, Terri will die before this court is able to consider the merits' of the case, said the 40-page filing to the Supreme Court.
This referred to the parents' case to federal courts that Schiavo's rights, such as due process, have been violated.
The Supreme Court twice last week refused to get involved in the Schiavo case and the chances of the parents succeeding with their new appeal had been seen as slim.
Michael Schiavo has been consistently supported by state courts in his stance that his wife is in a persistent vegetative state and would not want to live in this condition.
Since the feeding tube was removed, they have raced to keep their daughter alive, winning the support of conservative Christian groups who used their political clout in the wake of President George W. Bush's re-election in November to lobby the Republican-controlled US Congress.
Congress rushed through a law over the weekend giving federal courts jurisdiction over a case long the domain of state courts, drawing criticism for its step into a legal dispute. But the effort was rebuffed by federal courts.
Florida governor Jeb Bush, brother of President Bush, expressed doubt over Schiavo's physical condition and held out the possibility of taking custody of Schiavo through the state's department of children and families, a social welfare agency.