Skip to comments.EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW - Schindlers Respond to Michael Schiavo's Larry King Love-Fest - PART1
Posted on 10/29/2003 9:59:56 AM PST by NYer
Exclusive! Schindlers Respond to Michael Schiavo's
Larry King Love-Fest
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 travelling. 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 in response.
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 "Exclusive!".
Because of the wide variety of issues addressed and the consequent length of the reponse, I'm posting it in two parts, with the second part to be posted this afternoon.
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 death.
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.
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 suppposed wish not be kept alive in her condition.
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. 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.
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.
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 attoney, 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 $10,000."
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.
Part Two of the Schindlers response will be posted this afternoon.
Fr. Rob Johansen is writing from Terri's vigil. He volunteered to drive down there from Michigan, to assist 81 year old Msgr. Malanowski, Terri's pastor.
FR restraints prevent me from posting this to the News/Activism Forum.
Catholic Ping - let me know if you want on/off this list
This account sounds far more credible than the one put forward by MS.
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.
Of course it was, I did not know her Dad was on with Sean!
Why judge Greer would take Schiavo's obviously fabricated story, plus that of Schiavo's brother and sister-in-law, as 'clear and convincing evidence' is beyond me.
There needs to be some sort of clarification in the laws as to what constitutes "clear and compelling evidence". In the hands of a reasonable judiciary, allowing judges to make such judgement calls would be a good thing. But in the hands of judges like Juge Greer...
Even if I had a magic crystal ball and knew with certainty that Michael's testimony about Terri's statements was accurate, I still would not regard such testimony as "clear and compelling" evidence that Terri wanted to be fatally dehydrated. For someone to say they "don't want to live like X" does not mean that, if they find themselves like 'X', that they would want to stop living altogether. It may also mean that they would want to do everything possible to live differently.
I'm convinced, after reading the NY Times article, What if There Is Something Going On in There (about the lives of people in a 'vegetative' state), that such a life is not necessarily the hell some people think it is.
In fact, the young man profiled in the article, Daniel Rios, communicates that he is "happy" in the end.