After a two-hour hearing in a Florida court on Monday the judge refused to immediately issue a ruling on the case of Terri Schiavo, which has sparked an intense ‘right to die’ debate in the United States.

Ms Schiavo, 41, has been in a vegetative state for 15 years and her husband has fought a long legal battle for her right to die, saying she would not have wanted to live in such a condition.

A Florida state court on Friday ordered the feeding tubes that sustain her life be removed at the request of her husband.

But attorneys for Ms Schiavo’s parent filed an emergency motion Monday that would force doctors to re-attach the tube.

In an unprecedented move Congress intervened in the case and
passed an emergency bill during an extraordinary session on Sunday.

President George W. Bush rushed back to the White House to sign the bill into law early on Monday, effectively putting the case under the jurisdiction of the federal courts.

If the parents win and the state court’s decision is reversed, Ms Schiavo will be re-hydrated and given surgery to reconnect the feeding tube.

“We are very hopeful, very hopeful that the federal courts will follow the will of Congress and save my sister’s life,” Ms Schiavo’s sister, Suzanne Vitadamo, said.

Congressional leaders brushed aside concerns of overstepping constitutional bounds on the power of individual states and moved the case to federal court.

“The legal issues, I grant everyone, are complicated, but the moral ones are not,” said Tom DeLay, leader of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. “Terri Schiavo is not brain dead; she talks and she laughs and she expresses happiness and discomfort.”

Critics say by intervening, Congress has undercut the separation of judicial and legislative powers, infringed on the jurisdiction of state courts and violated family privacy.

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