Why, Michael? Twelve Questions For Michael Schiavo
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 23, 2004
A couple of weeks ago, CNN's Larry King asked Robert and Mary Schindler what they thought Michael Schiavo's reasons are for wanting Terri to die.
They both answered that they didn't know.
After eleven years of battling their son-in-law, they still don't know.
Of course, none of us can know what goes on in another person's mind.
Their actions, however, can give us a glimpse into their thinking.
In television clips I have seen of Michael, he comes across as arrogant, brash, and intimidating. Michael makes it easy to dislike him.
But just because I don't like someone doesn't mean he's not telling the truth.
At the same time, it's been hard for me to judge Michael's thoughts because I have never been in his place. In fact, I can not imagine being in his place.
Since 1997, Michael has consistently said that he wants Terri's feeding tube removed because it is what she would have wanted -- that he is honoring her wishes because he loves her very much. He testified that Terri mentioned on several occasions that she would not want to live "by artificial means". As witnesses, he presented his brother and sister-in-law who verified his testimony.
I would not hesitate to take Mr. Schiavo at his word, if it weren't for other things he has said and done that cause me to doubt his sincerity. So, for me to get a better understanding of what he's been thinking, I'd like to ask him a few questions:
1. Why has he refused several recommendations for Terri's continued therapies?
In April of 1991, about a year after her collapse, therapists at Bradenton Mediplex Rehabilitation Center determined that Terri's condition was improving and recommended Michael have her transferred to Gainesville Rehabilitation Center to receive advanced therapy so she could continue her recovery.
But by July, Michael had instead moved her to Sable Palms Nursing Home, with no such therapy.
Later, he refused to allow therapies that her parents believed might have allowed her to swallow, so she would not have to rely on a feeding tube.
2. Why did he not mention his wife's wishes during one of two malpractice cases?
In late 1992, one of Terri's doctors settled a malpractice suit out of court for $250,000. The following January, a Pinellas jury awarded about $1.4 to Terri and $600,000 to Michael in a suit filed because her gynecologist failed to ask about her medical history while treating her.
Michael had asked the jury to grant $20 million to pay for Terri's future medical and neurological requirements, based on her life expectancy, which he and his attorneys estimated at 51 years. Michael also told the court he wanted to become a nurse so he could help his wife for as long as she lived.
His attorney told the court about Terri: "She can't respond much but she can respond, and she does respond a little bit, not much. But enough to give him hope."
The following month, February 1993, Terri's parents had a 'falling out' with their son-in-law, because, they claim, he refused the therapies that professionals had recommended.
3. If Michael expected Terri to live to at least age 51, why did he order her caregivers not to treat her for a potentially life-threatening infection in August of 1993, and another in late 1995?
4. Why did he invoke a "do not resuscitate" order just a few months after the jury award?
5. Why, in 1997, did he announce his engagement to another woman, while still married to Terri?
6. Why, also in 1997, did he hire George Felos, an attorney with a reputation for fighting "right to die" cases, to represent him?
7. Why did he petition the court, also in 1997, to have Terri's feeding tube removed so she would starve and dehydrate to death.
8. Why did several nursing home workers swear that Terri's demeanor changed after he was in the room with her?
9. Why did nursing home workers swear that he at times stormed into the facility asking when "that bitch" would die?
10. Why did he have Terri, who does not have a terminal illness, moved to a hospice in 2000, even though hospices are designed for people who are expected to die within six months? According to his earlier calculations, she still had at least 15 more years left to live.
I have no reason to believe that Michael Schiavo did not love his wife. My guess is -- and this is only a guess based on his actions that have been reported -- that he did plan for his wife to live a long life, and that he even thought there was a chance she might recover some of her "old self" right after her injury.
I wonder, however, if her costly therapy became less of a priority when he saw the $20 million he projected for her long-term care and rehabilitation -- and to compensate him for his loss -- shrink to $1.4 million. I wonder, too, if the fact that he had been living without a lover for three years weighed heavily on him, along with feelings that it was time for him to "move on with his life".
I can imagine a vague comment Terri may have made about life-support suddenly taking on new meaning and new urgency: Terri would not have wanted "to live like this".
We really don't know.
But something clearly shifted in his mind. Choosing George Felos, who even in 1997 had a history of supporting "right to die" causes, was a clear and conscious choice, in my view. From that point on, Michael wanted his wife to die and was willing to spend most or all of the money from her trust fund to make that happen.
And Terri, bless her, did not die.
Finally, there are two questions that nag at me more than any others and which I cannot reconcile:
11. Why won't he allow Terri's parents and siblings to take over her guardianship?
12. Why did Michael not allow Terri, a Catholic, the holy sacraments of Communion and last rites when her feeding tube was removed last October?
I am not Catholic, but I understand these rites to be an extremely important practice in Catholicism
Michael said it was because she might choke on a communion wafer or inhale some of the wine.
In my view, nothing could be more absurd.
For one thing, priests have explained that the ceremony could have been adapted by dissolving much of the wafer before placing it on Terri's tongue and touching a cloth dabbed in wine to her lips.
For another, Michael planned on starving her to death and had believed she only had a few more days to live.
If he loves his wife as he says he does, why did he deny his wife this most important, final gesture of love?
Why, Michael? Why?