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

In an extraordinary laststop legal measure, her family's lawyer told a state judge that 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 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.

"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, Florida 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 Schiavo has articulated a desire to live is based on noises the 41-yearold 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 Schiavo that all the problems could be avoided if only she could articulate the words "I want to live".

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

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 left no written instructions.

Most medical experts say the noises Schiavo occasionally makes are nothing more than unconscious groans and that she is not aware of her surroundings.

Others have said that if Schiavo did indeed say the words "I want", she could just as easily have been trying to say, "I want to die".

As Schiavo has slipped closer to death, so the numbers of demonstrators outside the Florida hospice has swelled. Most are conservative Christians, members of a loosely organised network, who have spent the last week holding banners, singing hymns and demonising Michael Schiavo and the "liberal courts" at every opportunity.

A lawyer for Michael Schiavo, George Felos, said the Schindlers' latest motion was "simply an outrageous abuse of the legal system".

The judge, George Greer, was due to rule by yesterday evening. If, as expected, he rules against the family's emergency motion, they could appeal to a higher court but observers say they have few legal options left.