Michael Schiavo has decided that his wife’s life is without merit. Since her collapse in 1990, he has worked to free himself from the burden of caring for the one he vowed to love in sickness and in health. After she awakened from a brief coma, Terri Schiavo’s condition improved slightly, and, though unable to move or speak, she remains alert and responsive to the kindness of friends, family, and medical staff. She breathes on her own, without the aid of a respirator. Nonetheless, since 1991, Michael has, according to Terri’s parents, refused to obtain “meaningful therapy” for her that might improve her condition.
In 1993, Michael, as Terri’s legal guardian, had doctors post a “do not resuscitate” order in her chart, and, when she contracted a life-threatening infection, he insisted that doctors withhold treatment. This prompted Terri’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, to petition a Florida court to have guardianship transferred to them. In early 1994, the case was dismissed. A similar incident occurred in 1995.
As early as May 1997, one month before he announced his engagement to girlfriend Jodi Centonze, Michael was able to secure a judge’s approval to remove Terri’s feeding tubes. This prompted a six-year court battle between Michael and the Schindlers (both the Florida Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear appeals in 2001), culminating in Judge George W. Greer’s ruling that Terri’s feeding and hydration tubes be removed on October 15.
Terri Schiavo was denied Holy Communion after her food and nutrition tubes were withdrawn. In the midst of trying to kill her, they did not want her to choke to death, and, besides, that would constitute feeding. As she lay dying, however, the Florida state legislature passed a measure requiring that the feeding and hydration tubes be reinserted, which, after it was signed by Gov. Jeb Bush, at least temporarily put a halt to the madness.
It is illegal to mistreat, starve, or dehydrate an animal, but it is apparently all right to do it to a human being. Nutrition for Dummies describes dehydration as intense thirst followed by water seeping out of blood cells and plasma, nausea, flushed skin, rising temperature, headaches, a quickening pulse, tongue swells, kidney failure, muscle spasms, deafness, sunken eyes and stiffened lids, and cracked skin. Finally, “your organs grind to a halt. And—sorry about this—so do you. Ave atque vale.” Death by starvation is not a merciful fate, either.
Michael Schiavo asserts that Terri “did not want to live this way.” Her family disputes this claim. The money that pays for Terri’s medical care comes from a malpractice lawsuit that awarded funds to the Schiavos based on the length of time it was estimated Terri would live. At the hearing, Michael professed his love and told the court that he wanted to bring Terri home to care for her. Within a year, he instructed her caretakers not to give her an antibiotic and also gave her caretakers the DNR orders.
Let us follow the money. In 1990, Terri collapsed. During the next two years, she was transferred between rehabilitation centers and her home. In August 1992, Terri was awarded $250,000 in a medical malpractice settlement and another $1.4 million in a malpractice suit the following November. Michael Schiavo was awarded $600,000 that same month. In February 1993, he began denying Terri rehabilitative treatment over the protestations of her parents and despite her improvements. As of September 2001, $440,226.30 from Terri’s medical account has gone to compensate Michael’s attorneys, who are trying to end Terri’s life. They toil still.
Since Terri’s incapacitation, Michael has been involved with a series of women and refers to the most recent as his fiancée. (“I’m fortunate to have two women in my life that I love very much,” he told Larry King.) He has a child with her and another on the way. If Michael Schiavo cares so little about Terri, why does he not relinquish her guardianship to her parents, who obviously love her dearly? Who stands to gain by her death? Who stands to lose by her living?