By Fr. Rob Johansen Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2003
Sorry to miss posting an update yesterday. It
was kind of a crazy day, with more things to do than I had time to do them,
including traveling, which limits my access to the Internet.
I watched the whole Larry King interview with
Michael Schiavo Monday night, and I took note of a number of issues he addressed
which didn't seem consistent with things that either Terri's family told me, or
that I had read.
While Michael was on Larry King, Terri's father
Bob Schindler was on Hannity & Colmes, so he didn't see the interview.
Terri's mother Mary watched the first few minutes, but she said she turned it
off because she couldn't stand to watch Michael lie on TV.
I questioned Bob and Mary about several of the
claims that Michael made on the Larry King show, and they had quite a bit to say
CNN trumpeted their interview with Michael
Schiavo Monday night as an "Exclusive". I guess that means that Bob
& Mary Schindler's response, which I present to you here, is also an
I started off by asking them, "Michael
claimed that after he won his settlement, you confronted him in Terri's room at
the nursing home, and demanded money. Is that true?" Bob replied
categorically that that is not what happened that day. "I never asked him
for money, ever," Bob said. Bob admits that he got into an argument with
Michael that day, but it was over Michael's promise to use Terri's settlement
money for rehabilitation.
Bob and Mary had gone to visit Terri, and found
Michael sitting in her room at the nursing home, reading a book. After some
small talk, Bob said to Michael, "We can use some of that money now to take
Terri to Shands [the Shands Medical Center at the University of Florida in
Gainesville] for rehab." Bob explained to me that the doctor who oversaw
Terri's treatment in California, a Dr. Youngling [Bob isn't sure of the
spelling], recommended that they take her to Shands. Michael alluded to this
treatment in his Larry King interview, saying that the attempts to stimulate
Terri using implants didn't work. Bob and Mary confirm that those treatments
didn't work as hoped, but that the doctor had nonetheless observed some
improvement in Terri's condition, and he
recommended they take her to Shands for a
different course of treatment. Bob had wanted to bring her to Shands right away,
but Michael insisted on waiting to do so until after he received a settlement.
Michael received the settlement in January of
'93, and this confrontation took place in February. "A month had gone by
since he [Michael] had gotten the money, and he hadn't done anything yet,"
Bob explained, nor had Michael said anything about what he planned to do.
Mary said that Michael appeared to ignore Bob,
so Bob repeated his remark. At this point, Mary said, "Michael looked up,
threw his book against the wall, then he stood up and kicked the tray table by
Terri's bed, and went into the hall." The Schindlers followed him into the
hall, and Bob, angry at this point, reminded Michael that he had "promised
to use the money for Terri's rehab." Michael then ran down the hall, turned
back and yelled at Bob and Mary, "I'm going to call my lawyer, and you'll
never see your daughter again." At this point Michael's lawyer was not
George Felos. Felos only became involved once Michael sought Terri's
Bob repeated to me that he has never asked
Michael for any of Terri's settlement money. He said, "I tried to remind
him of his promise." A promise, Mary added, that Michael had made under
oath. This promise may not be legally binding, but the Schindlers certainly
regard it as morally binding.
Schiavo is legally bound to use Terri's rehabilitation funds to pay
for her therapy. Judge Greer is illegally granting Michael permission to misuse the designated award
monies! See: Exploitation
of the Disabled is a Felony.]
About a month after this incident, the
Schindlers were informed that Michael had cut off their access to Terri's
medical information. Terri's doctors and nurses were not to discuss Terri's
medical condition with the Schindlers. Bob & Mary are still denied access to
medical information about their daughter.
They learned later that shortly after this,
Michael gave a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order for Terri. This struck the
Schindlers as odd, since Terri was in no danger of death. Also, up to this point
Michael had yet to say anything about Terri's supposed wish not be kept alive in
her condition. [Michael
had not yet received his "game plan" from George Felos.]
The nursing home staff was sympathetic to the
Schindlers, and frequently gave them information in spite of Michael's medical
"gag order." In July of that year, Bob & Mary were told that Terri
had a serious urinary tract infection. The nursing home staff also told them
that Michael had ordered the nursing home not to treat the infection, which
treatment would have consisted of a simple course of antibiotics. [Michael's
order was clearly illegal.] The staff were worried, because left untreated, the
infection would eventually cause sepsis and Terri's death. Bob and Mary were
powerless to do anything, but fortunately the nursing home eventually gave the
antibiotics anyway, and Terri recovered.
At this point, Bob & Mary made their first
attempt to have Michael removed as guardian. In his deposition for this
proceeding, Michael admitted that he had ordered the nursing home to deny Terri
treatment for the infection, and that left untreated, the infection would have
caused Terri's death. Bob and Mary then explained that when asked in the
deposition if he would do something like that again, he said he couldn't
"because the law prevented him from acting in that way." When asked
why he did it, he responded that he "didn't think Terri would want to live
like this." Notice that Michael said he didn't think so. Bob said, "he
had the perfect opportunity there to talk about Terri's 'wish' not to be kept
alive, and he didn't." In fact, it was another 5 years before they heard
anything about Terri's supposed wish not to be kept alive.
The judge denied the Schindler's petition to
have Michael removed as guardian. 3 years later (1996), they tried again to have
Michael removed as guardian, and were again refused. This in spite of testimony
from the administrator of Terri's second nursing home that Michael had given
similar orders to them to deny potentially life-saving treatment to Terri.
Fortunately, that nursing home also decided to go against Michael's wishes and
administered appropriate medications.
nursing home obeyed the laws of the state of Florida rather than Michael Schiavo.
Legal guardians do not have the authority to violate the law in order to
fulfill personal vendettas to do harm to their charges!]
I would add that this was not the last of
Michael's attempts to cause Terri's death by denying medication for perfectly
treatable ailments. When Terri developed pneumonia earlier this year, Michael's
attorney George Felos asked the judge if medication could be denied to Terri for
the pneumonia. He wanted her to be removed from the hospital, returned to the
hospice, and "allowed" to die "naturally". Fortunately, even
Judge Greer thought this beyond the pale and ordered her treatment continued.
[Denying Terri antibiotics when
they are necessary to treat a life-threatening illness is against the law. Judge Greer has no authority to give Michael Schiavo
permission to break the law and deny Terri medical care!]
I also asked Bob and Mary about Michael's claim
that Bob had offered him $700,000 to walk away and let them take care of Terri.
Bob admitted that after Terri's feeding tube was restored the first time, he did
offer Michael money, but that it was more like $500,000. Bob explained,
"That was our attorney's idea [at that time their attorney was Jim Eckert].
He thought that since Michael was after Terri's money, let's give him what he
wants to make him go away." I asked Bob and Mary how they intended to come
up with the money. Bob replied, "We didn't know. Jim [their lawyer] thought
we could raise the money somehow, but first we had to get Michael to agree to
the idea." I asked him if any pro-life or other "right-wing"
group ever offered him money for that purpose. He laughed and said no; nothing
like that ever happened.
Furthermore, as to the contention that the
Schindlers are being put up to their defense of Terri's life by
"right-wing" pro-life groups, Bob & Mary Schindler dismiss it as
ridiculous. "The first offers of assistance we got from national pro-life
or conservative groups was about two weeks ago", Bob said. Furthermore, the
assistance offered was in terms of organization and mobilizing grass-roots
support, not financial support. "We actually approached a couple of
organizations back in 2000 after the first trial", Bob added, "but
they weren't interested in getting involved at that time."
Indeed, the Schindlers have fought for more
than a decade with little more than their own resources and some local help.
After the first trial in 2000, "Professionals For Excellence", a local
organization of conservative professionals, offered some help, and since then
have occasionally contributed the expertise of their members in publicity, legal
opinions, and other organizational assistance. According to Bob, Pat Anderson,
their lead attorney, has worked on Terri's case largely pro bono with some
occasional grants from legal foundations.
The Schindlers started the Terri Schindler
Schiavo Foundation to get the word out about Terri's plight and to raise money
to help defray the considerable expenses they have incurred in their efforts to
save her. In the past three years, Bob Schindler estimates that the foundation
has raised "about $40,000." "In addition to that," Bob
continued, "Msgr. Malanowski [the priest who has been offering spiritual
support and guidance to the family for the past few years] raised about another
Far from being well-financed pawns of
"right-wing" groups and pro-lifers, Bob and Mary have been crying out
for years to get someone to listen to them, someone to help them. Finally,
within the last few weeks, they've begun to be heard, and there has been an
outpouring of support for which they're truly grateful.
Michael Schiavo went into some detail on Larry
King describing the circumstances of the injury which caused Terri to be in her
present state. Michael claimed that he woke up in the middle of the night, then
heard a loud thud. He went out into the hall, he said, and saw Terri lying in
the hallway. She was, he said, unconscious. Michael then stated that he called
Terri's brother Bobby, who lived in the same apartment complex as Terri and
Michael. He then said that Bobby told him to call 911 and that he would come
over. Michael claimed that he was holding Terri in his arms when Bobby arrived.
The paramedics arrived a short time later and began to try to revive her. I
asked the Schindlers how his account meshed with what they knew happened at the
Bob Schindler replied "that isn't what
happened at all. What happened was that Michael called us first, and I answered
the phone. He told me that Terri had collapsed and was unconscious. I told him
to call 911. Then I called Bobby and told him to get over there. I said
'something's going on over there, get over there right now.'" Bob also said
that Michael's claim that he was holding Terri in his arms was untrue.
"When Bobby arrived at their place," Bob explained, "he found
Terri lying face down in the hallway, with her feet over the threshold of the
doorway, as though she had been coming out of the bedroom. Her hands were
clutched around her throat, and her breathing was gurgling. Michael was sitting
on the couch in the living room; he was a total basket case."
Michael also said on "Larry King
Live" that Terri was bulimic prior to that night, and that her bulimia was
possibly the cause of the potassium imbalance which was discovered when she was
in the hospital. Bob & Mary also find this assertion incredible. Bob's
reaction was "Poppycock!" Terri, they said, was quite healthy and had
a healthy appetite prior to her injury. None of her friends or family ever saw
any signs of any eating disorder, and there was no medical evidence of it found
in her examinations.
This "potassium imbalance" is
frequently touted as the explanation of what caused Terri's collapse. But it is
an explanation that explains nothing. Indeed, doctors for the Schindlers
testified in court, and reiterated at their news conference last Friday (October
24, 2003) that the potassium imbalance was only detected after she was brought
to the hospital. This is after the paramedics had been working on her to revive
her. Part of such treatment is the injection of various drugs and electrolytes
to try to stimulate the heart. These injections were very likely the cause of
the potassium imbalance.
potassium imbalance was an effect of her collapse and subsequent treatment, and
not the cause of anything.
Terri's heart stopped for several minutes that
night, and that stoppage caused the brain damage that led to her current
condition. It is frequently asserted in press accounts that Terri had a
"heart attack." This too is false. There was no heart attack, and
again, doctors have testified to that effect. A heart attack causes the release
of certain enzymes into the bloodstream. These enzymes are readily discovered in
tests and are used as the "markers" of a heart attack. No such enzymes
were found in Terri's bloodstream, nor any other evidence of a heart attack.
heart was and is quite healthy: there was no heart attack.
So what happened to cause Terri to lose
consciousness? No one is sure, because there was never a proper investigation.
[The police who arrived at
the scene immediately routed their report to the homicide department but there
was never an investigation. This crucial information is not available at
The Schindlers do not accept Michael's
version of what happened to Terri.
Also, Bob related, "It's in the
medical record that when Terri was brought into the hospital she had bruises
around her neck."
for the Schindlers have testified that those bruises were consistent with manual
strangulation. Furthermore, skull x-rays and head CT scans done about a year
after her injury indicated fractures to the occipital region which have never
been explained. These fractures are consistent with trauma to the head.
[The medical records
indicate that there were bruises around Terri's neck! This information is not
available at terrisfight.org. WHY?]
The theory that Terri was strangled gains
plausibility when one considers that friends and siblings of Terri's testified
that they were aware that Michael had abused Terri prior to the night of her
injury. Bob & Mary were not aware
of this themselves before Terri's injury. "I found out afterwards,"
Bob said, "that they [Terri's friends and brother] had been keeping that
from me." But, Bob, explained, Terri's best friend, Jackie Rhoades,
testified at the 1996 guardianship hearing that she knew Terri was being abused,
that she frequently saw her with bruises on her arms and legs, and that Terri
was afraid of Michael. Jackie further stated that Terri intended to divorce
Michael, and that she and Terri were making plans to do that. Terri's brother
Bobby also testified to his knowledge of Terri's abuse, and corroborated much of
These allegations and the evidence behind them
have been brought to court in the Schindlers' suits to have Michael removed as
guardian, but have never been properly investigated. Judge Greer dismissed these
allegations with a wave of his judicial wand, saying that "it would be
interesting to know what happened," but that it was "irrelevant to
this case." Judge Greer disregarded Jackie's and Bobby's testimony, saying
that it was hearsay. That ruling will prove to be interesting in light of the
judge's ruling regarding other secondhand testimony in this case. [Allegations
that Terri was abused by her husband, especially in light of the fact that she
had bruises around her neck and "an extraordinarily rigid neck," upon arrival at the hospital, is definitely relevant
to this case. This is more evidence that Terri's case is being used to further a
specific agenda. This case is not really about
Terri's right to choose or reject medical treatment.]
On the Larry King Show, Michael also contended
that he was not after Terri's settlement money. As evidence of this he said that
he had offered three times to give that money to charity. Bob and Mary Schindler
confirm that he did make such an offer, but only once. During the first effort
to remove Terri's feeding tube, in 1998, the Schindlers received a letter from
Michael's lawyer George Felos containing the offer. But that offer, they
explained, was contingent on their agreement to remove Terri's feeding tube.
"He said he'd give the money away if I agreed to kill my daughter,"
Bob explained. He added that the letter stipulated that the offer to give the
money away was off the table after 10 days.
Why, I asked, did Michael make such an odd
proposal? "Well, that's interesting," Bob answered. "See, the
court appointed a guardian ad litem to determine Michael's fitness as guardian.
His name was Richard Pearse. Pearse said that Michael had a conflict of interest
as guardian because he stood to inherit the money in Terri's fund if Terri died.
Pearse said that Michael couldn't be impartial in his decisions."
"So," Bob continued, "that offer and the letter was Felos'
attempt to remove the appearance of conflict."
Mr. Pearse, in his role as guardian ad litem,
also found that Michael's testimony regarding Terri's purported wish not to live
if she required artificial support was "not credible." So what
happened to the perspicacious Mr. Pearse, as a result of his observing Michael's
obvious conflict of interest and the flimsiness of his story regarding Terri's
wishes? He was removed as guardian ad litem by Judge Greer, at Felos' request. [The
guardian ad litem who did not follow the plan of Michael
Schiavo's backers was banned. Richard Pearse has now changed his mind and agrees that Terri's
feeding tube should be removed! This about-face serves as further conditioning for the
public to "go along with the program."]
Michael has repeatedly asserted that he so
doggedly pursues Terri's death because he is trying to "honor her
wishes", because he loves her. Michael asserts that he heard Terri voice
this wish while watching a television show that involved a person in a
vegetative state. I asked Bob & Mary about this "wish" of Terri's.
"She never said anything like that", Mary answered, "not to any
of us." When was the first time you ever heard about this wish, I asked.
"It was in 1998," Bob replied, "during the first trial" [to
remove Terri's feeding tube]. "We never heard anything about that
before." The reader will recall that Michael had an opportunity to
explain that "wish" during the 1993 court proceedings, but for some
reason did not. [It seems reasonable to surmise that
the reason Michael did not mention Terri's alleged death wish is because he had
not yet hired the lawyer who gave him the "This is Terri's wish" legal
strategy. Regarding Michael's alleged "love" for Terri: Love would
compel him to provide the therapy Terri needs to get better. Fear of Terri's
improvement (and subsequent restoration of speech?) compels him to commit felonies and
risk prison as he continues to block her legal right to rehabilitation.]
But, I asked, Michael said that his story has
been corroborated. And some defenders of Michael emphasize that the court found
his testimony "clear and convincing". What about that? "What the
court found so convincing," Bob replied, "was that Michael brought out
his brother and sister-in-law, and they corroborated him. And Felos brought them
out at the last minute, shortly before the trial. They weren't on the original
witness list. Felos blindsided us."
I was, frankly, astonished. I'm no lawyer, but
I know enough to find that somewhat irregular. Didn't your lawyer object? I
asked. "Oh, yeah, Bob said. "She objected all over the place. They
weren't on the witness list, and they were never deposed before the trial, but
the judge allowed them in."
You'll recall that Judge Greer disallowed the
testimony of Jackie Rhoades and Bobby Schindler regarding Terri's abuse, because
it was hearsay. But Michael's testimony, and that of his never-deposed brother
and sister-in-law, were allowed in, and found "clear and convincing".
It would seem that in Judge Greer's courtroom, some kinds of hearsay are more
convincing than others. [Judge Greer consistently allows
testimony and evidence that furthers the euthanasia agenda and disallows any
testimony or evidence that stands in the way of that agenda--such as the trauma
indicated in Terri's medical records and the abuse
charges against Michael Schiavo.]
Michael has repeatedly avowed his continuing
love for Terri. He did so again on "Larry King Live". Bob & Mary
find his love of a rather strange variety. "If he loved her so much,"
Mary said, "he could start by keeping his marriage vows to her,"
obviously referring to Michael's live-in girlfriend, with whom he has fathered
two children. Furthermore, they find his protestations of love unbelievable in
light of his almost total neglect of her. "In the beginning he used to
visit her a lot," Mary told me. "But after '93, he visited less and
Bob related that while he was still working [he
is now retired], he used to visit Terri at the nursing home "once or twice
a week" on his way home from work. He and Mary, he added, visited Terri
together on the weekends. "We never saw him at the nursing home," Mary
said, "and he was never listed on the sign-in sheet."
Nursing home staff complained to the Schindlers
that they could never reach Michael. "They needed to talk to him about
things concerning her care," Bob said. "But they'd leave messages and
he didn't call back." The director of Terri's second nursing home, David
Cross, testified in the 1996 guardianship hearing that he "had a difficult
time" with Michael. The state, Bob explained to me, requires that nursing
home administrators have monthly meetings with family representatives regarding
patient care. Mr. Cross testified that Michael never asked for or came to such
meetings, and that created problems for the nursing home's compliance with the
law. Cross also testified that Michael never made arrangements for
state-required annual physicals either, forcing the nursing home to arrange them
itself. [Michael Schiavo has
broken many guardianship laws in favor of neglecting and abusing Terri.
Judge Greer is legally bound to remove him from his position and should have
done this years ago. Also see:
a Dozen Florida Statutes Violated While Michael Has Acted as Terri's Legal
Bob and Mary assert that since 2000, Michael
has rarely visited Terri. "The only time he visits Terri," Bob said,
"is when a hearing is coming up, and then Felos stages a visit so Michael
can say in court that he visited her recently."
I wondered if Michael didn't visit Terri
because he feels like he has "moved on" with his life. Larry King
asked Michael why he didn't just move on, why he didn't just divorce Terri and
marry his girlfriend. Michael said that he's "content with the way things
are," with his girlfriend. He told Larry he had no plans to marry her.
"Right," Bob said in an ironic
tone. "He said under oath at the 2000 trial that as soon as Terri died, he
would marry his girlfriend."
posted by Fr. Rob Wednesday Oct. 29 10:53 AM
Lisa's comments in blue.