Skip to comments.Michael Schiavo: A refusal to quit in the face of threats, anguish and vitriol.
Posted on 03/20/2005 6:06:29 PM PST by Former Military Chick
He's been vilified on Web sites and talk shows. He's been called a wife-abuser, an adulterer, a money-grubbing murderer.
Death threats have been left in his mailbox.
Throngs of protesters have waved signs and chanted outside his house in Clearwater, Fla., and they have gathered again.
Sometimes, even Michael Schiavo's friends have wondered why, in the face of all that, he didn't just walk away.
It would have been easier for him to relinquish guardianship of his severely incapacitated wife, Terri, to her parents.
So why not give it up, leave Terri's feeding tube in, let her parents care for her? After all, he is living with another woman now and they have two children.
"Because he's sticking by what he promised," Scott Schiavo, Michael's brother, said in a recent interview. "He wants to honor the last thing he can give to her."
Physicians have testified that Terri Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state and will never improve. Michael Schiavo has said his wife told him she would not want to live like this.
Her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, formerly of Huntingdon Valley, say she is responsive and can be helped. They say that, as a Catholic, she would choose life at all costs.
On Friday, Terri Schiavo's feeding tube, which has been in place for all but two brief stretches of time since she collapsed in 1990, was removed. It could be brief this time as well. The House is expected today to consider a Senate bill that would allow Schiavo's parents to take their case to federal court.
Throughout the protracted legal battle, the Schindlers have made their religious views, their personal anguish, and their mistrust of Michael Schiavo a public cause.
Intensely private, according to his family and friends, Michael Schiavo has rarely spoken publicly about the matter, out of respect for his wife's privacy. Through his brother, he declined to be interviewed for this story.
However, in recent days he has gone on national TV to reiterate that Terri would not have wanted to live like this and criticize politicians for getting involved in a deeply personal matter.
His brother and friends also have decided that it's time to speak up. The mudslinging, they said, has become too ugly, too nasty.
"I have a friend who I think has been maligned," said Russ Hyden of Gainesville, Fla.
"We're tired of it. We're done. It's time people know who he is," said Scott Schiavo, who lives in Levittown near where the brothers were raised.
The thing is, even if Michael Schiavo wins the final court battle, and Terri Schiavo's feeding tube is removed, he really hasn't won at all, Scott said.
"He's already lost," he said. "He's already lost Terri."
Social with friends, but reclusive
His brother and friends describe Michael Schiavo as social within his circle of friends, but otherwise almost reclusive. Except for the No Trespassing sign on his front lawn and the armed guards he's occasionally hired to protect his home, he's tried to grasp whatever shreds of normalcy he can.
His friends don't see the demon that protesters who have hurled insults at him do.
Wilma Mackay, a 65-year-old retiree from Palm Harbor, Fla., who watched her husband and brother die of cancer, sees a man who is "the epitome of loyalty."
Bonnie Rowley of Largo, Fla., a friend for about a decade, sees someone who "stands strong on what he believes in, and that is Terri Schiavo. If I needed a health-care advocate, he'd be my first choice. I know he'd be there till the end, and he'd give it one hell of a fight."
Michael Schiavo, 41, was the youngest of five boys. Six-foot-seven, athletic and model-handsome, he met Terri Schindler at Bucks County Community College in 1982.
She had graduated from Archbishop Wood High School in Warminster, he from Woodrow Wilson High School in Bristol Township.
Married two years later, they moved to Florida, where, early on the morning of Feb. 25, 1990, Michael Schiavo has testified, he awoke to the sound of a thud and found Terri on the floor in the hallway, unconscious.
They had been married a little over five years.
He has spent three times as long - the last 15 years - first trying to bring her back, then trying to let her go, his friends and brother say.
In the beginning, they say, Schiavo was relentless in his search for his wife's cure. She underwent various therapies.
He rented a house large enough for him and Terri's parents, who had moved to the area.
He made sure she was dressed every day. He applied her makeup and dabbed on perfume, Rowley said.
He went to school to become a nurse, "because he wanted to take care of Terri," Scott said. "He swore that he could get Terri better... . One doctor said: 'Mike, you know what? There's nothing else we can do. The next time Terri gets sick, why don't you just let nature take its course?' And Mike wouldn't do it."
Death and defining moments
Many of the defining moments of Michael Schiavo's life have revolved around death.
In 1988, his grandmother was hospitalized with a serious illness. She had signed a "do not resuscitate" order, Scott Schiavo said, but when she worsened in the middle of the night, no one looked at her records.
"It took them I don't know how long to get her breathing again. They stuck a ventilator down her throat." To little avail. "She was brain-dead," Scott Schiavo recalled.
All the family could do was wait until medications that kept her heart beating wore off. It took a day and a half, he said.
After the funeral, the family went to the Buck Hotel in Feasterville. Scott and Terri were sitting next to each other at a large table, where the conversation turned to how upset their grandmother would have been at her final hours.
Terri turned to him, Scott Schiavo said, "and she said, 'Not me, no way, I don't want that.' She says, 'If I'm ever like that, oh, don't let me. Pull that tube out of me.' " Scott Schiavo said he testified about the incident in 2000.
Several years after Terri collapsed, Michael Schiavo's mother was diagnosed with cancer.
Eventually, medical complications required the removal of her feeding tube, Scott said. "It's not like we said: 'Turn it off.' "
She was kept "peaceful and out of pain" until she died, Scott said.
Then their father died.
Eventually, Scott said, his brother realized he would have to let Terri go, too.
The Schindlers - who did not respond to a request for an interview made through their lawyer - have been distrustful of his motives partly because, they have said, no one mentioned Terri's wishes until years after her collapse.
But, Scott said, "it's not something you think about while Mike's trying to save her life... . It's something that people do when there's nothing left to do."
This particular fight has not come without a price.
"I give Mike all the credit in the world, because I would have snapped already. I know how bad it hurts me when I hear people talking about him and downing him," Scott Schiavo said.
Most of all, Scott said, "the thing that tears him up is he worries at nighttime, if he's working. He's afraid for the kids and Jodi."
Love and moral dilemmas
Michael Schiavo met his girlfriend, identified in court records as Jodi Centonze, about a decade ago.
Initially, Rowley, who was Centonze's friend, didn't know what to think. The court battles had not yet heated up, but she knew the situation with Terri.
When Rowley met Michael Schiavo, what she noticed first was his "great smile, a gentle smile."
Gradually, her respect grew. "He could have stepped off and divorced Terri five years ago, when this really hit the court. And got married and started his family that way," Rowley said.
The couple has two toddlers - a daughter and a son. Michael Schiavo works in the medical unit of the Pinellas County Jail.
Both Centonze and Michael Schiavo had to face "their own moral dilemmas as far as having children out of wedlock," Rowley said. "But the two of them weren't getting any younger... So does that make him a bad person because he did that? Did he fluff his responsibility to Terri at any point? No."
It is Centonze, Scott Schiavo said, who now does all Terri's laundry. "She's been unbelievable. She supported Mike in everything he did... . She's gone with Mike to visit Terri. She's helped Mike clean Terri up."
Centonze has been a flashpoint for Michael Schiavo's critics who think it is a reason to disqualify him to be Terri's guardian. His living with Centonze "abrogates the covenant of marriage," said Rob Schenck, president of the National Clergy Council, who was among the demonstrators outside the hospice on Friday.
Looking back on it now, Scott thinks his brother "just wanted somebody to love him." He equates it with a widower who remarries, "but it doesn't mean that that person stopped loving their spouse that passed on. Mike was very lonely. I mean, he was a 26-year-old kid" when Terri collapsed.
"It's hard to imagine the circumstances he lived under," friend Russ Hyden said. "There was no closure, yet there was no companionship either. That's the worst possible scenario."
Hyden had met Schiavo in 1991. Hyden's pregnant wife had been diagnosed with cancer. A mutual friend thought they "might have something in common. And we did."
But it was more than that they were both going through "life-changing ordeals," Hyden said. "We both liked to play a little golf. We enjoyed each other's company."
Hyden scoffs at the accusations about Schiavo taking the malpractice money awarded to Terri. "If there was so much money, where was that money when I first met Mike? Why wasn't he driving a big car and living in a big home? He was driving a Jeep and living in an apartment."
Hyden's wife lived for almost three more years. He and Schiavo spoke or saw each other several times a week.
"He was always great with my kids," Hyden said. Hyden's daughter was 2, his son 7, and Michael brought them gifts.
"He spent a great deal of time helping me put my family back together," Hyden said. "Perhaps it was because his had fallen so tragically apart."
Sympathy for Terri's parents
In a way, Michael Schiavo has said he can sympathize with Terri's parents. "I have children, and, you know, I couldn't even fathom what it would be like to lose a child," he said in an interview on Nightline last week.
But, he continued, "they know the condition Terri is in. They were there in the beginning. They heard the doctors. They know that Terri's in a persistent vegetative state. They testified to that at the original trial. Fifteen years - you've got to come to grips with it sometime."
He said Terri would "always be a part of my life.
"And to sit here and be called a murderer and an adulterer by people that don't know me, and a governor stepping into my personal, private life, who doesn't know me either? And using his personal gain to win votes, just like the legislators are doing right now, pandering to the religious right, to the people up there, the antiabortion people, standing outside of Tallahassee?
"What kind of government is this? This is a human being. This is not right."
In a way, Michael Schiavo's world still revolves around Terri. He calls every day and visits several times a week, Scott Schiavo said. He can still talk to her, even if she doesn't talk back.
Michael Schiavo yesterday told CNN that he had a "sense of relief" now that the feeding tube had been removed and he promised to "stay by her side" till the end.
"This is her time...," he said. "I will love her and I will hold her hand."
Contact staff writer Sandy Bauers at 610-701-7635 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congress tries again to stop Schiavo death
Timeline of the Terri Schiavo Case
Recent court rulings and other materials related to the Terri Schiavo case:
5 Wishes a Site that helps one prepare if one is unable to speak for themselves.
Partnership for Caring
Statutory Form of Declaration
No way you're gonna get a straight answer to a straight question.
I just saw on Fox news that Mikey basically told the president to mind his own business. I don't blame him, I hate it when the authorities step when when I'm trying to kill someone by starvation.
Mind your own business while I'm killing my wife.
I keep reading about this case and I can't believe it's gone as far as it has. It stinks to high heaven.
I am a physician and would appreciate the opportunity to review her bone scan. The links I have seen do not work, do you have a link?
You are a liar; I've never said anything CLOSE to that.
So far you've called me an ass and a liar, but you've not answered my questions.
What's the matter, calling it like it is making you uncomfortable?
I didn't say you "said," I put you in the same company as. Big difference.
I have to admit, I'm enjoying the fact I've upset you while reducing you to claiming something I didn't say.
Is this the best you can do? Or, do you just want to admit you can't justify your position?
Here's a handy hint for you: most people don't want to discuss ANYTHING with somebody who starts off by lying about them.
You fall into that category; but carry on.
Calling me a liar isn't a refutation of what I said about you.
What was it I said about you? Or, did I merely describe you as one of those comfortable with the idea of "Terri slipping away?"
As much as you rant, I don't have to refute a lie, period.
Shame on you! He just "forgot" "her dying wish" until after he got the malpractice awards.
Wrong on that!
Silence right now would be a great virtue for you!
Because, to phrase it in his loving, caring manner, he didn't expect the "bitch" to survive this long without the treatment that he purposely withheld.
I looked back through your posts, and I notice you are fond of "asking questions."
Well, I asked you questions, why not answer them?
You keep harping about "the rule of law" and how this will "destroy the GOP," and "law of unintended consequences."
Are you also ignoring the consequences that may flow from Judge Greer's ruling? What about Judge Greer going ahead with having the feeding tube removed even after a Congressional subpoena? Nation of laws, remember?
I asked you questions after lumping you in with the right to die crowd. However, it appears you used this as a convenient out to avoid answering inconvenient questions.
Now, you've again resorted to name calling by tossing out the charge of "ranting."
If I was wrong in putting you in the right to kill crowd, then why don't you say so? If you do belong to the right to kill crowd, then why not try to support that position?
Because I am not going to defend myself to a liar.
No stop posting to me.
Terri is Catholic, I'm not sure what religion, if any Michael professes. Seems to me he professes the religion of EGO and convenience (i.e. kill the burdensome disabled wife, move on to a new family, etc...).
But that aside, although Catholics don't really belive in divorce, he is committing adultery with this new woman and therefore has abrogated the marriage covenant.
Also, I would think the Church would look upon divorce as opposed to murder as the lesser of two evils.
I, too, would be in favor of her "right to die" under a few conditions:
1) She had expressed her wish to be starved in writing AND she is terminally ill.
2) Absolutely everything had been done for her (therapeutic efforts 15 or so years ago just don't cut in in light of recent advances in technology). Particularly efforts to help her eat "naturally".
3) Michael is indeed the loving husband he claims to be. Becoming involved and having children with another woman while your wife is disabled does not demonstrate that you have her wishes and best interests at heart.
Even under those circumstances, I would support terminating her feeding extremely reluctantly, as I just can't wrap my brain around the concept of taking affirmative steps to starve a person to death, unless they are terminally ill and the person's entire family supports it, not just a spouse who has already moved on with his life.
Bottom line, he should divorce her, not kill her. He absolutely has the legal right to do so but refuses. This is the fact of this case which bothers me the most. She has people ready, willing and able to care for her but he refuses to let them do it. It is indeed a sad situation.
Oh please, she's already called me a liar. Now you jump in?
Go back through and read my postings very carefully.
From her questions, it lead me to believe she was in the "right to kill crowd." However, I did my research, and she is actually playing the "above the fray" game.
So, it comes down to, what is her position, and can she defend it? She cited "rule of law" in one of her posts. However, Judge Greer has clearly violated the "rule of law" by ignoring a Congressional subpoena.
Howlin also goes on about the "law of unintended consequences." That cuts both ways, because there are most certainly unintended consequences that can flow from Judge Greer's ruling.
Now, since I'm a liar, an ass, and do nothing more than rant, Howlin wants me to stop posting to her. I guess I made her a bit uncomfortable when I asked her position on this. But, I'll stop making her uncomfortable. After all, she is uncomfortable enough, what with straddling the fence like she is.
ILLEGITIMUS NON CARBORUNDUM! ;o)
I happen to have a lot of doubt about Michael's side of the story. The big reason is that he has shacked up with another woman, and has two kids with her. That makes Terri awfully inconvenient for him. To be honest, George Felos also gives me the creeps.
I also think that the folks supporting Terri have acquired a HUGE case of groupthink and have tossed out some unsubstantiated allegations that could come back to bite Free Republic and the conservative movement in general. Making false accusations will not help Terri or the effort agaisnt euthanasia. It will only be used against the right-to-life movement down the road.
People who want to get the facts straight and to deal with this situation rationally are not the enemy, and quite frankly, I resent seeing decent folks labeled as "pro-death" because they are not marching in lockstep. And to be blunt, there are other matter that need to be dealt with - at least one P-3 squadron is having a hard time finding the spare parts it needs to get its aircraft ready for a deployment. What do you think the maintenence personnel on that squadron think of this?