Death without Dignity; after Years of Right-to-Life Court Cases That Set Her Husband against Her Parents, Terri Schiavo's Family Keep Feuding to the Bitter End

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Byline: JACQUI GODDARD

TERRI SCHIAVO died yesterday, ending America's longest and most bitterly fought right-to-life case.

The 41-year-old died in a Florida hospice after 13 days without food or water.

But she was not allowed to pass away in dignity as the feuding between her husband and her parents continued to the end.

In the moments before her death, her mother and father were turfed out of her room - and a new battle is likely over whether she will be buried or cremated.

Christian activists maintaining a vigil in the street fell to their knees weeping and singing hymns as the news was announced.

Some of them branded her husband Michael a 'murderer' as his 12-year campaign to see his wife die was finally fulfilled.

Mrs Schiavo, who had been disabled for 15 years, had been at the centre of a dramatic legal struggle between her husband, who insisted that she would want to die, and her parents Bob and Mary Schindler, who wanted her to live.

The case went to the U.S.

Supreme Court, Congress and the White House as the Schindlers begged for their daughter's life, accusing their son-in-law of putting her to death so he could marry another woman. On March 18, her feeding tube was withdrawn on a judge's orders.

'This is not only a death, with all the sadness that brings, this is a killing,' said Father Pavone, a family friend and director of the Catholic pro-life group Priests for Life.

'We not only grieve that Terri has passed, we grieve that our nation has allowed such an atrocity as this and we hope it will never happen again.' Mr Schiavo, who received death threats in recent weeks, was at his wife's bedside when she died at the Woodside Hospice in Pinellas Park near the beach town of St Petersburg at 9.05am.

Mrs Schiavo's parents, along with her brother Bobby, 40, and sister Suzanne, 37, had been with her until ten minutes earlier but were then ejected to make way for her husband. 'Bobby Schindler said, "We want to be in the room when she dies" and Michael Schiavo said "No",' Father Pavone said. 'The heartless cruelty continues until the last moment.' The Schindlers' lawyer, David Gibbs, said her blood family were grief-stricken but relying on their strong Catholic faith for comfort.

Russ Hyden, a friend of Michael Schiavo, said he was devastated.

'He was crying and just wants to spend some time alone,' he said.

Mr Schiavo wants to cremate his wife but her parents want a full burial.

President Bush said she should have been allowed to live. He told a White House press conference: 'I urge all those who honoured Terri Schiavo to continue to build a culture of life where all Americans are welcomed and valued and protected, especially those who live at the mercy of others.'

Vatican Cardinal Renato Martino said Mrs Schiavo's death was tantamount to murder. …