Answering Some Frequently Asked Questions About The Terri Schiavo Case

*** Note: There’s an enormous amount of conflicting information floating around about the Terri Schiavo case. So in an effort to clarify some of the particularly controversial points, I took the time to do some heavy research.

While I have a very strong opinion about this case, I consulted numerous sources on both sides of the issue & tried to be as fair and balanced as possible. ***

When and how was Terri Schiavo injured? On February 25, 1990 Terri Schiavo collapsed. There is controversy over what happened.

The theory most often bandied about is that Terri had bulimia which led to a potassium imbalance, which in turn led to a heart attack. The malpractice suit that Michael Schiavo won was based on this diagnosis. That fact that Terri lost a large amount of weight in the months before her attack contributes to the credibility of this theory.

On the other hand, the Schindlers have speculated that Michael Schiavo may have caused Terri’s injuries by trying to strangle her and neurologist William Hammesfahr, who has worked with the Schindlers on this case has denied that Terri had a heart attack:

“In the Emergency Room, a possible diagnosis of heart attack was briefly entertained, but then dismissed after blood chemistries and serial EKG’s did not show evidence of a heart attack.”

Personally, I find it a little hard to believe that Michael Schiavo could win a malpractice suit that turns on his wife having a heart attack if the hospital denied that she had one. So while there are certainly differing opinions on this issue, I’d have to lean towards the more popular explanation for her injury.

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Was Terri Schiavo beaten by her husband? Here’s an adequate summary of the allegations & Michael Schiavo’s response by Newsmax:

“A March 1991 bone scan performed on Mrs. Schiavo showed evidence of “compression fractures” to her back, ribs, legs and ankles. Prior to being found unconscious in her St. Petersburg apartment the year before, Schiavo had not broken any bones, her friends say.

Jackie Rhodes, who worked with Terri at a local insurance office, said she often showed up at work with noticeable bruises – but never complained of being hit.

“They were smaller bruises, like maybe someone had grabbed her or, you know, like, squeezed her arm or leg really tight,” Rhodes told Fox News Channel last week, adding that the couple were planning to divorce.

During a 2002 court hearing, Michael Schiavo took issue with allegations that he abused his wife prior to the accident that ended her normal life.

“I’ve never, ever struck a woman, especially my wife,” he insisted, in quotes picked up by the Tampa Tribune. “I was raised better than that.”

Mr. Schiavo blamed physical therapists for Terri’s injuries, saying that doctors who performed the 1991 bone scan knew that bone loss caused by her paralysis made her susceptible to injury during the therapy sessions.

He called the abuse allegations “utterly ridiculous.”

You can take a look at the actual bone scan here.

Here’s more on the spousal abuse claim from WorldNetDaily:

“In testimony given during the 2000 trial, Terri’s girlfriend and co-worker said Terri discussed getting a divorce and moving in with her. She also testified that the couple had a violent argument on the day of Terri’s collapse, which prompted her to urge Terri to not stay at home that night – a suggestion Terri disregarded.

“There are only two people who know what happened that night that she collapsed. And one of them is trying to kill the other who is too disabled to speak,” (the Schindler’s lawyer Pat Anderson) told WND at the commencement of the trial last month.

While it is certainly understandable that this might raise suspicions, without further corroborating evidence like police reports, hospital visits prior to February 25, 1990, or perhaps friends who claim Terri Schiavo told them she had been physically abused, it seems a bit irresponsible to carelessly toss around wife-beating allegations at this point.

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Did Michael Schiavo provide rehabilitation for his wife? Initially, by all accounts, Michael Schiavo did provide rehabilitation for his wife. However, there is debate about how long the therapy was continued.

According to the Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation:

“Terri hasn’t had meaningful therapy since 1991, but many credible physicians say she can benefit from it.”

On the other hand, according to the Kansas City Star:

“Terri underwent more than three years of rehabilitative therapy after her collapse in 1990.”

Whatever the case may be, serious attempts at rehabilitation don’t appear to have been made in over a decade.

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Has Michael Schiavo dated other women since his wife’s injuries? Yes. In a late 1993 deposition, Michael Schiavo admitted that he had engaged in 2 intimate, romantic relationships with women other than his wife. Assuming those were the only two relationships he had, and given their length (3 & 8 months), he must have begun dating a little less than two years after Terri’s injury.

Here’s another interesting snippet from that same November 1993 deposition that some people might find telling. The answers here are being provided by Michael Schiavo:

Question: What did you do with your wife’s jewelry?

Answer: My wife’s jewelry?

Question: Yeah.

Answer: Um, I think I took her engagement ring and her — what do they call it — diamond wedding band and made a ring for myself.

Question: Okay. Anything else? Did you make any other jewelry for yourself?

Answer: No, just that.

Question: What did you do with her cats?

Answer: Her cats were put to sleep on the advice of my mother-in-law.

Currently, Michael Schiavo lives with his fiance, Jodi Centonze. They’ve lived together for a decade and have had two children together.

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What happened to cause the split between Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers? At first, the Schindlers and Michael Schiavo got along extremely well:

“They moved in together after Terri’s collapse in February 1990, and Michael called the Schindlers ”Mom and Dad.” A year later, the Schindlers encouraged their son-in-law to get on with his life and date. They even met some of the women he saw (*** Note: The Guardian Ad Litem report also confirms the Schindlers encouraged Michael to date ***).

”I looked at that as maybe he was starting to take a step in the right direction and get his life back together,” Bob Schindler said in a 1993 deposition. “He’s still a young man. He still has a life ahead of him.”

But things changed in early 1993 and they had a bitter falling out over the money won in the malpractice suit and Terri’s rehabilitation:

“Michael initially expected a multimillion-dollar award, and the Schindlers said he promised them a share, which would enable them to care for Terri at home.

By then, the Schindlers were almost broke. After selling his share of a successful industrial equipment company, Bob Schindler lost his savings in a Florida business venture that went sour. The couple declared bankruptcy in 1989, Bob Schindler testified. He told a court that Michael Schiavo promised to help.

But Michael said he never committed to sharing any award money with the Schindlers, especially when the award ended up being far smaller than hoped. Roughly $700,000 was earmarked for a trust fund for Terri, and $300,000 for Michael.

The Schindlers still expected part of Michael’s share to help care for Terri. On Valentine’s Day 1993, they confronted Michael in Terri’s hospital room. The discussion quickly turned ugly. Michael said the Schindlers demanded the money, so he lied and said he did not have it. Disgusted, the Schindlers left, their trust in Michael irrevocably breached.

”The fact that he was going back on his word upset me,” Bob Schindler testified in 1993. “I was devastated.”

Michael soon began believing doctors who told him that Terri had effectively died in 1990. In a 1993 deposition, he testified that Terri had said she would never want to live by artificial means. He imposed a ”do not resuscitate” order. Hospice staff challenged the order’s legality, so he reversed it.

From that point on, Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers became bitter enemies.

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Did Terri Schiavo say she wanted to die if she were in this condition? This is one of the primary points of contention in this case and with good reason.

Initially, as mentioned earlier, Michael did provide rehabilitation for his wife. Furthermore, in late 1992, Michael Schiavo said the following during testimony given in his medical malpractice suit:

“I believe in the vows I took with my wife, through sickness, in health, for richer or poor. I married my wife because I love her and I want to spend the rest of my life with her. I’m going to do that.”

But, in 1993 (Note: this is after Michael Schiavo had already started dating other women and received over a million dollars from the settlement of the medical malpractice suit), his attitude changed rather dramatically.

Michael Schiavo admitted in a November of 1993 deposition that earlier in the year, he had requested that doctors not treat a urinary tract infection that was potentially fatal to Terri. The doctors were not able to comply with Michael’s request because it would have been illegal.

According to the The Times Leader, Michael Schiavo first claimed that Terri had told him she wouldn’t want to live at this point, but most other sources that I’ve seen point to that information first being revealed in 1998.

In 1998, Michael said that while watching a movie, Terri had once opined that she wouldn’t want to live if she were ever in a coma. Michael’s older brother, Scott Schiavo, and Michael’s sister-in-law, Joan Schiavo also claimed Terri had a similar conversation with them after a funeral.

On the other hand, one of Terri’s friends, Diane Meyer, had a very different story to tell:

“Diane Meyer can recall only one time that her best friend, Terri Schiavo, really got angry with her. It was in 1981, and it haunts her still.

The recent high school graduates had just seen a television movie about Karen Ann Quinlan, who had been in a coma since collapsing six years earlier and was the subject of a bitter court battle over her parents’ decision to take her off a respirator. Meyer says she told a cruel joke about Quinlan, and it set Terri off.

“She went down my throat about this joke, that it was inappropriate,” Meyer says. She remembers Terri saying she wondered how the doctors and lawyers could possibly know what Quinlan was really feeling or what she would want.

“Where there’s life,” Meyer recalls her saying, “there’s hope.”

Added to that is the testimony of Terri’s court appointed guardian, Richard Pearse:

“Pearse said he was troubled by the fact that Michael waited until 1998 to petition to remove the feeding tube, even though he claims to have known her wishes all along, and that he waited until he won a malpractice suit based on a professed desire to take care of her into old age. As her husband, Michael would inherit what is left of her malpractice award, originally $700,000, which is held in a trust fund administered by the court. Accounting of the fund is sealed. But Michael’s lawyer, George Felos, said most of it has been spent on legal fees associated with the custody dispute.

Pearse also said he did not find Joan and Scott Schiavo’s testimony credible.”

Believe it or not, there’s even more:

The Schindlers had contacted a woman Michael dated in 1991 who told them Michael had confessed to her he did not know what Terri would want. Although the woman refused to sign an affidavit, it bought the Schindlers some time. And with it, they found Trudy Capone.

A former co-worker of Michael’s, Capone signed an affidavit on May 9, 2001, stating “Michael confided in me all the time about Terri … He said to me many times that he had no idea what her wishes were.”

Despite the rather large amount of conflicting evidence, Judge Greer ruled in Michael Schiavo’s favor on the issue.

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Is Terri Schiavo in a persistent vegetative state? This is of course, the key issue in the case because if Terri Schiavo is judged to be in a PVS, she can be legally denied food and water. On the other hand, if the diagnosis is that she’s minimally conscious, the law requires that she be given food and water no matter what the wishes of her guardian may be.

There’s also quite a bit of controversy over what her condition actually is and with good reason.

According to the New York Times:

“At least six neurologists have examined Ms. Schiavo, and in affidavits or testimony four of them agreed that she was in a persistent vegetative state and highly unlikely to recover.”

The flip side of this argument is that there are many qualified experts who disagree with that diagnosis. Florida neurologist William Hammesfahr & neurologist William Cheshire of the Mayo Clinic have gotten the most attention in the last week, but based on the videos that have been made public, 33 physicians (including 15 board-certified neurologists) have signed affidavits stating that Terri’s condition should be reevaluated.

Combine those conflicting diagnoses with the fact that Terri Schiavo has never had a MRI or a PET and the fact that the error rate in diagnosing PVS has been reported to be as high as “43 percent,” and it’s clear that there is still more than a little room for doubt about her true condition.

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