Relatives of Terri Schiavo who have been fighting to prolong the life of the brain-damaged 41-year-old woman began to abandon their quest yesterday and to withdraw from public view.
Although two appeals filed in support of their cause remain pending in state courts, Schiavo's parents lost their latest emergency petition to the Florida Supreme Court and abandoned the federal part of their legal battle.
"I'm going to concentrate now on my mom and my family," Schiavo's brother Bobby Schindler said when asked what the family would do after their latest defeat.
He thanked supporters who have gathered to pray, protest and hold vigils outside the hospice where nine days ago Schiavo's feeding tube was removed.
"We appreciate what everybody has done, it really lifted us up," he said.
A spokesman for the family, Brother Paul O'Donnell, urged people gathered outside to go home for the Christian holiday of Easter.
"They've just exhausted all judicial means," O'Donnell said of the family, adding that starting yesterday they would no longer be speaking with the media, choosing instead to spend time at Schiavo's bedside.
O'Donnell said Schiavo "is really showing signs of starvation and dehydration" and begged Florida Governor Jeb Bush to take action, as he did when a similar standoff unfolded in 2003.
"Governor Bush, you do have the authority to stop the killing of Terri Schiavo .... We beg you to have courage and take action."
Bush has said, however, that his powers to intervene are limited.
Schiavo has been in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years since suffering severe brain damage during a cardiac arrest in 1990. Her husband and legal guardian Michael Schiavo has fought for years to have her feeding tube removed, saying she would not want to be kept alive artificially and should be allowed to die.
The battle has raged through the state court and legislature, but escalated after the US Congress stepped in last weekend and passed an unprecedented bill, signed by President George W. Bush, allowing the case to be heard in federal court.
Since then the family has experienced a string of court defeats including on Saturday when a state judge rejected the family's argument that Schiavo had tried to say "I want to live" before her feeding tube was removed.
Judge George Greer, who has consistently ruled in favor of the husband, found that any sound she made was a reflex and not a conscious act, based on medical evaluations of her condition presented in court. The Florida Supreme Court rejected the family's appeal of the decision late Saturday.
Meanwhile the family decided to cease their efforts in the federal court after losing their case twice in a federal district court, three times in an appeals court and five times with the US Supreme Court.
Attorney David Gibbs announced that the family had given up the federal court fight late Saturday.
That seemed to deflate the hopes of some 100 people gathered outside the hospice. But some said they would keep their vigil until the end.