Friday, March 25, 2005
Great article from USA Today. Read the whole thing, here are a few choice quotes:

Those records show that Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers jointly supervised care for Terri after she collapsed. For the first 16 days and nights that she was hospitalized, Schiavo never left the hospital. Over the next few years, as she was moved from the hospital to a skilled nursing facility, to a nursing home, to Schiavo's home and finally back to a nursing home, Schiavo visited Terri daily.
. . . .

Once Terri was unable to help herself, Michael became a demanding advocate.

John Pecarek, a court-appointed guardian for Terri, described her husband as "a nursing home administrator's nightmare," adding, "I believe that the ward (Terri) gets care and attention from the staff of Sabal Palms (nursing home) as a result of Mr. Schiavo's advocacy and defending on her behalf."

Mary Schindler testified that, while her daughter was at one nursing home, her relationship with her son-in-law was "very good. We did everything together. Wherever he went, I went."

Schiavo and the Schindlers even sold pretzels and hot dogs on St. Pete Beach to raise money for Terri's care. But everything seemed to change on Valentine's Day 1993 in a nursing home near here.

In 1992, Schiavo had filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against two doctors who had been treating his wife before she was stricken. Late that year came a settlement: Schiavo received $300,000 for loss of consortium — his wife's companionship. Another $700,000 was ordered for Terri's care.

Mary Schindler later testified that Schiavo had promised money to his in-laws. They had helped him and Terri move from New Jersey to Pinellas County, let them live rent-free in their condominium and had given him other financial help.

"We all had financial problems" after Terri's crisis, she testified. "Michael, Bob. We all did. It was a very stressful time. It was a very financially difficult time. He used to say, 'Don't worry, Mom. If I ever get any money from the lawsuit, I'll help you and Dad.' "

By February 1993, Schiavo had the money from the lawsuit.

On Valentine's Day that year, he testified, he was in his wife's nursing home room studying. He wanted to become a nurse so he could care for his wife himself. He had taken Terri to California for experimental treatment. A doctor there had placed a stimulator inside Terri's brain and those of other people in vegetative states to try to stimulate still-living but dormant cells.

According to Schiavo's testimony, the Schindlers came into Terri's room in the nursing home, spoke to their daughter, then turned to him.

"The first words out of my father-in-law's mouth was how much money he was going to get," Schiavo said. "I was, 'What do you mean?' 'Well, you owe me money.' "

Schiavo said he told his in-laws that all the money had gone to his wife — a lie he said he told Bob Schindler "to shut him up because he was screaming."

Schiavo said his father-in-law called him "a few choice words," then stormed out of the room. Schiavo said he started to follow him, but his mother-in-law stepped in front of him, saying, "This is my daughter, our daughter, and we deserve some of this money."

Mary Schindler's account of that evening is far different. She testified that she and her husband found Schiavo studying. "We were talking about the money and about his money," she said. "That with his money and the money Terri got, now we could take her (for specialized care) or get some testing done. Do all this stuff. He said he was not going to do it."

She said he threw his book and a table against the wall and told them they would never see their daughter again.
. . . .
[A]ccording to additional court documents cited by The Miami Herald. In the documents, Pamela Campbell, then the Schindlers' lawyer, told the court that "we do not doubt that she's in a persistent vegetative state." Campbell could not be reached to confirm the statement.

At this point, however, the gulf between Schiavo and the Schindlers could not be bridged.

"On Feb. 14, 1993, this amicable relationship between the parties was severed," Greer wrote. "While the testimony differs on what may or may not have been promised to whom and by whom, it is clear to this court that such severance was predicated upon money and the fact that Mr. Schiavo was unwilling to equally divide his loss of consortium award with Mr. and Mrs. Schindler."

Daniel Grieco, the attorney who handled Michael Schiavo's malpractice case, says his client never promised money to Bob Schindler. He also said Schindler never understood that he wasn't entitled to money under Florida law.

Grieco says the money is at the root of the estrangement. "It was the precipitating factor," Grieco says. "That was the fracture. That was the basis of it."

Without the acrimony, Terri's life-or-death saga probably would not have become big news, says Steve Mintz, a history professor at the University of Houston who studies families.
. . . .

Today, the money from the lawsuit settlement is almost gone, Grieco, the attorney, says. Just $40,000 to $50,000 remained as of mid-March. The $700,000 in Terri's trust has paid for her care, lawyers, expert medical witnesses. Michael Schiavo's $300,000 share evaporated years ago, he says.

Views about life, death

Terri Schiavo left no instructions about her care. In such an instance, Florida law requires a judge to follow a person's last wishes, if they can be established.

In his order, Greer said he relied upon the testimony of five witnesses regarding Terri's views about right-to-die issues. Schiavo, his older brother Scott and Joan Schiavo, wife of another of Schiavo's brothers, all said Terri had said or indicated that she would not want to be kept alive if her brain stopped working. Mary Schindler and Diane Meyer, a childhood friend of Terri's, testified that she she would.

Scott Schiavo testified that after the 1988 funeral for his grandmother, who was briefly kept alive on artificial life support, a clutch of relatives sat around a luncheon table in Langhorne, Pa., talking about the way she had died. "And Terri made mention ... that, 'If I ever go like that, just let me go. Don't leave me there. I don't want to be kept alive on a machine.' "

Joan Schiavo testified that she and Terri, whom she described as "my best friend and like a sister that I never had," had discussed artificial life support as many as 12 times. Joan Schiavo testified that she had a girlfriend who had decided to take her baby off life support, and that Terri indicated she would have done the same thing.

Mary Schindler's recollection of what her daughter wanted was different. She testified that Terri had commented on news coverage of the case of Karen Ann Quinlan, whose ventilator was turned off in 1976 after her parents went to the New Jersey Supreme Court. Schindler said her daughter told her this about Quinlan: "Just leave her alone. Leave her. If they take her off, she might die. Just leave her alone and she will die whenever."

Wow, how come I never read that before? Everyone assumes the husband is the bad guy here - what if it is really the parents who are the greedy money-grubbers? By the way, in 1976 Terri was 13 years old - hardly an adult at that time.

Update: The New York Times has a very similar story - but it does have additional information. It is also a very good read.

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