Schiavo Parents Claim Daughter Has Tried to Tell of Desire to Live ; Medical Ethics with Terri Schiavo Hours from Death, Debate Rages over Whether Courts Should Have the Power to End a Life

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Terri Schiavo, the severely brain-damaged woman who has gone eight full days without food or water, has communicated and made clear her desire to live, her family claimed yesterday.

In an extraordinary last-stop legal measure, her family's lawyer told a state judge that Mrs Schiavo had tried to vocalise the sentence "I want to live". She was only able to complete the first two words but her intention was clear, the lawyer said.

The most recent motion is the latest in a long and increasingly desperate series of attempts by Mrs Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, to have their daughter's feeding tube reinserted. It was removed nine days ago at the request of her husband, and her parents say she has only hours to live.

"I told her that we're still fighting for her and she shouldn't give up because we're not," her father told reporters outside the Woodside Hospice in Pinellas Park, near Tampa, after he emerged from visiting his daughter late on Friday night. "But I think people who were anxious to see her die are getting their wish."

The claim that Mrs Schiavo has articulated a desire to live surrounds noises the 41-year-old apparently made when her feeding tube was removed a week ago on Friday. In their motion before the court, the parents claim that one of the lawyers had said to Mrs Schiavo that all the problems could be avoided if only she could articulate the words "I want to live".

At that point Mrs Schiavo made the first two vowel sounds of the sentence "Ahh Wuhh", said the motion, adding that Mrs Schiavo was unable to finish the sentence and then became very anxious.

Mrs Schiavo has been in what experts term a persistent vegetative state for the past 15 years after suffering a massive and unexplained heart attack that prevented oxygen from getting to her brain. Her husband, Michael, claims his wife once said she would never want to be kept alive by a life- support machine - something the courts have accepted even though the claim is disputed and Mrs Schiavo had left no written instructions. …