Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Theresa Marie Schiavo (December 3, 1963 – March 31, 2005), commonly known as Terri Schiavo (pronounced SHY-voh, IPA: ), was an American woman from St. Petersburg, Florida who spent the last 15 years of her life in a persistent vegetative state (PVS). The judicial and legislative battles to disconnect her feeding tube generated tremendous media coverage during the last two weeks of her life and prompted a fierce debate over bioethics, euthanasia, legal guardianship, federalism, and civil rights.
On February 25, 1990, Terri Schiavo suffered severe brain damage from cerebral hypoxia caused by cardiac arrest. On February 11, 2000, a Florida circuit court ruled that Schiavo was in a PVS, and authorized her husband and Guardian, Michael Schiavo, to discontinue artificial life support.  The decision was affirmed on appeal by 19 separate judges. On March 18, 2005, her gastric feeding tube was removed. Terri Schiavo died on March 31 at around 9:05 a.m. EST.  An autopsy has been performed, but the results have not yet been released.
Michael Schiavo contended that he carried out his wife's wishes not to be kept alive in a PVS. Mrs. Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, and her brother and sister, disputed Mr. Schiavo's contention that she would not have wished to be kept alive and claimed that Schiavo was not in a PVS. Her parents vigorously appealed the judicial decisions, leading to the reinsertion of the feeding tube on two separate occasions. The courts all ruled in favor of Mr. Schiavo, and the feeding tube was removed a third and final time.
Related article: Terri Schiavo timeline
Schiavo was born Theresa Marie Schindler. Her parents named her after Saint Theresa of Avila. She grew up in the Huntingdon Valley area of Lower Moreland Township, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, as the eldest of three children; her younger siblings are Robert Jr. (Bobby) and Suzanne.
By her senior year in high school, Schiavo was overweight, with a height of 5'3" (1.57 m) and a weight of around 200 pounds. Schiavo went on a NutriSystem diet and lost about 55 pounds (25 kg).  Schiavo may have developed an eating disorder around this time in order to cope with her perceived weight problem.  In 1981, Schiavo graduated from Archbishop Wood High School, a private Catholic school in nearby Warminster.
Terri met Michael Schiavo in 1982 in a sociology class at Bucks County Community College in Newtown, Pennsylvania, where they were both students. He was her first boyfriend. After dating for five months, the couple got engaged and were married on November 10, 1984. They moved to St. Petersburg, Florida in April 1986. Bob and Mary Schindler, Terri Schiavo's parents, also moved to St. Petersburg three months later. In Florida, Terri worked as an insurance claims clerk for the Prudential insurance company, and her husband was a restaurant manager. Terri Schiavo's friends began to have suspicions about her eating habits. After meals out, she would immediately excuse herself to go to the bathroom. Michael Schiavo was aware of her unusual eating patterns, but did not realize their potential danger.
In 1989, the Schiavos began visiting an obstetrician and receiving fertility services and counseling in the hopes of having a child. At this time, Terri Schiavo's weight had dropped to 120 pounds, and she had stopped menstruating. However, the physician who examined Terri Schiavo did not take a complete medical history, which would have indicated an eating disorder. 
Initial medical crisis
On the morning of February 25, 1990, at about 5:30 a.m. EST, Schiavo collapsed in the hallway of the St. Petersburg apartment she shared with her husband. The noise awoke Michael Schiavo and he immediately called Terri's parents and 911 emergency services. The cause of the collapse was determined to be cardiac arrest. While waiting for the paramedics to arrive she experienced a loss of oxygen to the brain. Firefighters and paramedics found Schiavo face down and unconscious, in the hallway outside her bathroom. There were no signs of violence or a struggle. Attempts were made to resuscitate Schiavo, but she remained unconscious and slipped into a coma. She was taken to the Humana Northside Hospital, and in order to keep her alive, she was intubated, ventilated, and given a tracheotomy; she also received a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG), a feeding tube inserted through the abdominal wall. Terri emerged from her coma two and a half months later at Humana Northside Hospital, but never fully recovered or exhibited any evidence of higher cortical function.
The St. Petersburg police report revealed that no illegal drugs or alcohol were found in Terri's system; a physical inspection was unable to find any sign of trauma to her head or face.
According to her discharge summary from Humana Hospital, Schiavo suffered a cardiac arrest and anoxic brain damage, accompanied by seizures, respiratory failure, and an injured knee from the fall. Her cardiac arrest is believed to have been caused by bulimia-induced hypokalemia (abnormally low levels of potassium in the blood). At the time of her hospital admission, her blood potassium level was 2.0 mEq/L; the normal range for adults is 3.5-5.0. Medical records noted that "she apparently has been trying to keep her weight down with dieting by herself, drinking liquids most of the time during the day and drinking about 10-15 glasses of iced tea." 
On May 12, 1990, Schiavo was discharged to the College Park Skilled Care and Rehabilitation facility. On June 18, the court appointed Michael Schiavo as Terri's legal guardian, without objection from the Schindlers. Schiavo was transferred to Bayfront Hospital for further rehabilitation efforts on June 30. Terri Schiavo came home to her family in September; however, after becoming overwhelmed with Schiavo's needs, the family sent her back to the College Park facility. In November, Michael Schiavo took Terri to the University of California, San Francisco for an experimental procedure involving the placement of a thalamic stimulator implant in Terri's brain. The experimental treatment took several months but was unsuccessful. Michael returned to Florida with her in January 1991 and admitted her to a brain injury center in Bradenton, often "taking her to parks and public places in hopes of sparking some recovery."
In 1992, Michael Schiavo, on behalf of Terri Schiavo and himself, brought a medical malpractice lawsuit against the obstetrician who had been treating Terri Schiavo for infertility, claiming that the doctor's failure to diagnose Terri Schiavo's eating disorder caused her current condition. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury found that Terri Schiavo was bulimic and that the obstetrician's failure to diagnose this condition caused her hypokalemia and subsequent cardiac arrest. While on appeal, the case was settled and provided that Terri Schiavo receive $700,000 in damages and Michael Schiavo receive $300,000 for loss of consortium . The court placed Terri Schiavo's award in a trust fund, which was controlled by a third party and covered her medical and legal expenses.
Persistent Vegetative State (PVS)
Patients in a persistent vegetative state have severe brain damage and are in a state of "wakefulness without awareness." In many cases, the persistent vegetative state occurs after a coma, which is consistent with Schiavo having been in a coma following her collapse. Patients in a persistent vegetative state are usually considered to be unconscious and unaware. They may experience sleep-wake cycles or be in a state of chronic wakefulness. They may exhibit some behaviors that can be construed as arising from partial consciousness, including reflexive or random behaviors such as grinding of teeth, swallowing, smiling, shedding tears, grunting, moaning or screaming without any apparent external stimulus. They are unresponsive to external stimuli, except, possibly, painful stimuli.
The prognosis for recovery of awareness in PVS has been quantified. In general, the prognosis depends on the cause and duration of PVS. It is worse after cardiac arrest and after a long duration of PVS. Patients remaining in PVS for greater than 3 months after cardiac arrest have only a slight chance of recovery of awareness. Recovery of awareness is unprecedented after 2 years. With head injury causing PVS, the times necessary to show these levels of prognostic certainty are 1 year and 5 years respectively.  
The lack of oxygen to the brain suffered after Schiavo's heart attack in 1990 caused catastrophic brain damage and left Terri partially blind. In 1998, Dr. Jeffrey Karp and Dr. Victor Gambone, Terri's primary care physician, determined Terri to be in an irreversible persistent vegetative state (PVS).
Dr. Ron Cranford, a neurologist at the University of Minnesota, assessed Terri Schiavo's brain function in 2001 as part of a court-ordered examination. His exam showed that Schiavo's cerebral cortex had been completely destroyed and replaced by cerebrospinal fluid. The upper brain was about 80 percent destroyed, and there was also damage to the lower brain. The only part of the brain that remained intact was the brain stem, which controls involuntary functions such as breathing and heartbeat—allowing Schiavo to survive (with a feeding tube) even though she no longer had any cognitive function. He was quoted in Florida Today as saying, "[Schiavo] has no electrical activity in her cerebral cortex on an EEG (electroencephalogram), and a CT (computerized tomography) scan showed massive atrophy in that region." 
In 2002, a trial was held to determine whether new therapy treatments would help Schiavo restore any cognitive function. A new computed axial tomography scan (CAT scan) was done, and showed severe cerebral atrophy. An EEG showed no measurable brain activity.
Five doctors were selected to provide their expert testimony to the trial: two by Schiavo's parents, two by Michael Schiavo, and one by the court. Schiavo's parents selected Dr. William Maxfield (the Schindlers' family doctor, who was a radiologist) and Dr. William Hammesfahr (who made claims about vasodilation therapy that the court found spurious,  and who later falsely claimed to be a Nobel Prize nominee, being "nominated" by someone who was ineligible to nominate him. ). Michael Schiavo selected Dr. Cranford and Dr. James Barnhill. The court selected Dr. Peter Bambakidis. These five doctors examined Terri Schiavo's medical records, brain scans, the videos, and Schiavo herself. Cranford, Barnhill, and Bambakidis said Terri was in a PVS. Maxfield and Hammesfahr said Schiavo was in a "minimally conscious state." Greer ruled that Terri Schiavo was in a PVS and was beyond hope of significant improvement.  Florida's Second District Court of Appeal reviewed all the evidence and upheld the trial court's decision, saying had they heard the case themselves they would have ruled the same as Greer. Judge Greer reviewed a six-hour tape of Schiavo and concluded that her vegetative condition was factual and not subject to legal dispute.
Three Florida neurologists viewed 12 of Schiavo's CT scans on March 22, 2005.  After viewing the scans, Dr. Leon Prockop (a professor and former chairman of the neurology department at the University of South Florida's College of Medicine) was quoted by the Sun-Sentinel as saying that Schiavo's scan exhibits the "most severe brain damage as I've ever seen." Dr. Walter Bradley, the chairman of neurology at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine, said that he "doubts there's any activity going on in the higher levels of her brain." Dr. Michael T. Pulley said, "The chance that this person is going to recover is about zero." 
On March 23, 2005, Neurologist Dr. William Cheshire Jr., a consultant at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville and Assistant Professor of Neurology at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine,  said that he believed he had found reason to doubt the PVS diagnosis. He visited Schiavo five days after her feeding tube had been removed. His visit lasted 90 minutes and consisted only of visual observation, not a formal medical exam. During his visit, he observed what he interpreted to be purposeful behavior, as when Terri appeared to be watching him for "about half a minute". He noted that her hospice records suggested that she exhibited what might have been discomfort during menstruation. He expressed concern that there was no neurologist in her case, and she had not been examined in three years. Because her early brain examinations had been structural, not functional, he recommended functional examinations using new technologies, and in light of current research. His ethical opinion was that, because she might be misdiagnosed, it would be wrong to bring about her death. His opinion was given at the request of the Florida Adult Protective Services, for which he is a volunteer expert. Based on Cheshire's affidavit, Gov. Jeb Bush filed a petition to have Schiavo's feeding tube restored.  Criticism of Dr. Cheshire includes his writing of opinion articles on stem-cell research and other scientific debates that reveal a conservative Christian viewpoint. 
Issues of dispute
Patients in a PVS may exhibit some behaviors that can be construed as arising from partial consciousness—reflex or random behaviors such as grinding of teeth, swallowing, smiling, shedding tears, grunting, moaning or screaming without any apparent external stimulus. They are unresponsive to external stimuli, except, possibly, painful stimuli.
Schiavo's parents claim that their daughter did not meet the definition of a persistent vegetative state and was in a "minimally conscious state" instead. Her parents argue that at times her actions were indicative of responses to external stimuli, not reflex or instinctive behavior. For example, the Schindlers claim that their daughter smiled, laughed, cried, moved, made childlike attempts at speech, and attempted to say "Mom" or "Dad"; or "yeah" when they asked her a question. They claim that when they kissed her she looked at them and sometimes puckered her lips.
Schiavo's parents videotaped Terri for four and a half hours and produced six video segments totaling four minutes and twenty seconds. Schiavo's parents cite the testimony and affidavits of 33 physicians and therapists (including 15 neurologists) who, after reviewing these four and a half minutes of video segments, believe that Schiavo should have received further tests and/or would have likely responded to therapy. Some of these physicians have claimed that there was a "strong likelihood that Mrs. Schiavo is in a "minimally conscious state." None of the physicians saw the full four and a half hours of video. (The six video segments have been released publicly. The rest of the recorded video has not been released by Schiavo's parents.) 
An emergency motion to restore the feeding tube was filed by Barbara Weller, the Schindlers' co-attorney who stated that 20 minutes before the tube was removed on March 18, 2005, and in response to their attempts to coach her, "she managed to articulate the first two vowel sounds, first articulating AHHHHHHH and then virtually screaming WAAAAAAAA." Schiavo had been unable to speak since her heart attack in 1990. Weller asserted that she had told Terri that she would die unless she said, "I want to live." The alleged incident occurred only in the presence of family members and has not been independently confirmed; the police officer stationed outside the room said she could not recall hearing the vocalization. Judge George Greer said that Schiavo's utterances came only after being touched, which was consistent with evidence presented in 2002. "All of the credible medical evidence this court has received over the last five years is that this is not a cognitive response, but rather something akin to a person jerking his/her hand off a hot stove long before he/she has thought about it," Greer wrote. 
According to a December 29, 1998 report submitted by the second guardian ad litem, Richard Pearse, nursing home staff members observed the same reactions claimed by the Schindlers, except the staff noted that Terri's responses were random, coincidental, and unrelated to any external stimuli. However, the report did note two consistent responses: Terri responded to deep pain stimuli by moaning, and she opened her eyes in response to noise.
Florida law defines a "life-prolonging procedure" (life support) to mean "any medical procedure, treatment, or intervention, including artificially provided sustenance and hydration, which sustains, restores, or supplants a spontaneous vital function or functions. The term does not include the administration of medication or performance of medical procedure, when such medication or procedure is deemed necessary to provide comfort care or to alleviate pain."  Therefore, according to Florida law, Schiavo's feeding tube is considered life support. Feeding by mouth is not life support.
Neurologists have noted that if Schiavo was indeed in a persistent vegetative state, she did not experience pain, hunger or thirst due to the removal of the feeding tube.  Perry G. Fine, the vice president of medical affairs at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying: “What my patients have told me over the last 25 years is that when they stop eating and drinking, there's nothing unpleasant about it. In fact, it can be quite blissful and euphoric... the word 'starve' is so emotionally loaded. People equate that with the hunger pains they feel or the thirst they feel after a long, hot day of hiking. To jump from that to a person who has an end-stage illness is a gigantic leap.”  
The clinical records indicate that Schiavo was not responsive to swallowing tests.  Therefore, Schiavo required a feeding tube for life support.
In May 1998, Michael Schiavo petitioned the Pasco-Pinellas Circuit Court for authority to remove her feeding tube. The court appointed a guardian ad litem, Pearse, who produced a report concluding that Terri Schiavo was in a permanent vegetative state, but that Michael had a financial conflict of interest since he would be the sole inheritor of her money. Pearse also stated that the Schindlers had stated that their hope was that they would be granted guardianship, Michael would divorce their daughter and they would become Terri's "heirs-at-law." Pearson noted "neither side is exempt from...possible conflicts of interest." A trial was held.
On February 11, 2000, Circuit Court Judge George Greer ordered that Michael Schiavo could discontinue Terri's life support. The judge based this order on his findings that she was in a persistent vegetative state, and that before her illness she had made statements such as that she would not want to be kept alive "on a machine."  This decision was upheld upon appeal by 19 separate judges.
On February 23, 2005, the Schindlers filed an expedited motion for "Relief from Judgement Pending Contemporary Medical-Psychiatric-Rehabilitative Evaluation".  The Schindlers wanted to reinsert Terri's feeding tube so that she could be tested with an fMRI and given a swallowing therapy called VitalStim . They included the affidavits of many doctors and speech therapists to support their case.
On February 28, 2005 the Schindlers filed an "Expedited Motion for Permission to Provide Terri with Food and Water by Natural Means." This second motion asked for permission to attempt to feed Schiavo by mouth. 
On March 8, 2005, Judge Greer denied the second motion, saying "it has become clear that the [second] motion is part and parcel of [the previous] motion on medical evaluation. The same declarations are being used for both motions and the motion appears to be an alternative pleading to the [previous] motion. Both are asking for an experimental procedure." The first motion requests that Terri be given VitalStim swallowing therapy, which had never been performed on a patient who was in a PVS. The second motion simply asked permission to attempt to feed her by mouth, asserting that she might be able to swallow naturally. Greer then explained that if the first motion is approved, then the second one isn't needed, and if the first one is denied, the second one would be denied as well. 
On March 9, 2005, Judge Greer denied the first motion by the Schindlers, for the experimental testing and swallowing therapy. He denied the motion because an affiant doctor for Michael Schiavo cautioned that fMRI was an experimental procedure that should be conducted in an academic setting, because Schiavo had already undergone swallowing tests and failed, and because VitalStim had only been performed on patients who were not in PVS. Greer noted that "most of the doctor affidavits submitted are based on their understanding of Terri's condition from news reports or video clips they have seen. Many are obviously not aware of the medical exams undertaken for the 2002 trial.... The Court cannot see how the [Schindlers] have met the burden established by Schiavo III... They are not alleging that any new treatment exists that would significantly improve the quality of her life so that [Terri] would reverse the prior decision to withdraw life-prolonging procedures." 
On March 25, 2005, Robert Schindler told the media that his daughter's lips and eyes were "bleeding" from lack of hydration, that her skin was "peeling," and that she was "fighting like hell to stay alive."  In a news conference the following day, Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, described her differently, saying "she looked beautiful. In all the years I've seen Mrs. Schiavo, I've never seen such a look of peace and beauty upon her." 
On March 30, 2005, Robert Schindler told reporters, "I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw and encouraged that she's still fighting"  and that Terri was "failing" but "doing darn good under the circumstances." 
On March 31, 2005, 13 days after her feeding tube was removed, Schiavo went into cardiac arrest and died.
A bone scan  performed in March 1991 showed, according to the radiologist who evaluated it, that Mrs. Schiavo had suffered prior traumatic injuries to multiple ribs (on both sides), to both sacroiliac joints, both knees, both ankles, several thoracic vertebrae, and to her right thigh, in addition to a minor compression fracture of the L1 vertebra. Mrs. Schiavo's parents did not know of the existence of this scan until November 2002, twelve years after her brain damage and entry into an incapacitated state. Forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden, provided with the scan but not with her history, suggested that physical trauma, specifically a head injury, probably caused Mrs. Schiavo's collapse , though in a later interview , after learning her history, he agreed that the bulimia/hypokalemia explanation was also possible. Others argue that the trauma is consistent with her cardiac arrest, fall, CPR attempts and eventual resuscitation.
Mrs. Schiavo's parents and Dr. William Hammesfahr, a neurologist they hired to examine her in 2002, claim that she had been battered by her husband. Upon becoming aware of the bone scan report possibly suggesting previous abuse, the Schindlers petitioned the Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court for a full evidentiary hearing to evaluate the new evidence.
Matt Conigliaro comments that "[t]o believe that Michael caused Terri's collapse by beating her requires that Michael initiated a medical malpractice lawsuit against a doctor for causing her collapse, opening the whole matter to serious inquiry and greatly increasing the risk that someone would discover his role as abuser. No evidence of abuse was presented by the obstetrician in the 1992 malpractice lawsuit even though the bone scan had been performed one year earlier." 
Florida's Department of Children and Families investigated 89 complaints of abuse dating back to 2001, when Schiavo's feeding tube was removed for the first time. In a report released on April 15, 2005, state investigators concluded that "there is no evidence to support allegations of any neglect or abuse." 
On September 11, 2003, the Schindlers petitioned the Pinellas County Circuit court for the Sixth District. The petition asked the court to forestall any removal of the feeding tube for "eight weeks' therapy." Accompanying the petition were five affidavits: four from members of the Schindler family (presumably her mother, father, brother, and sister) and one from Dr. Alexander T. Gimon. At the hearing in which the petition was presented, Patricia Fields Anderson was the attorney for the Schindlers and George Felos was the attorney for Michael Schiavo. During the hearing, Anderson read into the record affidavits from three "speech professionals" and two nurses, Heidi Law and Carla Sauer Iyer.
Iyer claimed in her affadavit that her initial training in 1996 consisted solely of the instruction "Do what Michael Schiavo tells you or you're terminated." She also claimed that Michael said "When is that bitch gonna die?" and that he made many other similar statements. She states that on five different occasions, she tested Terri's blood sugar levels after Michael visited Terri, and she found that that Terri's blood sugar levels were so low it wouldn't even register a number. She stated that it was medically possible that Michael injected Terri with insulin in an attempt to kill her. Iyer states that standing orders were not to contact the Schindler family, but that she "would call them anyway." Iyer states that she eventually called the police and was fired the next day. Despite her claims that she called the Schindlers multiple times in 1996, there is no evidence the Schindlers did anything at the time to demand that the nursing home or police investigate the supposed incidents. Nor did they subpoena Iyer during their 2000 court battle with Michael.
On September 17, Judge Greer issued a nine-page court ruling, rejecting the petition. Greer wrote that "the Petition is an attempt by Mr. and Mrs. Schindler to relitigate the entire case. It is not even a veiled or disguised attempt. The exhibits relied upon by them clearly demonstrate this to be true." Regarding Iyer's claims, Greer wrote that they were "incredible to say the least" and that "Ms. Iyer details what amounts to a 15-month cover-up (April 1995 through July 1996) which include the staff of Palm Garden of Largo Convalescent Center, the Guardian of the Person, the guardian ad litem, the medical professionals, the police, and believe it or not, Mr. and Mrs. Schindler. It is impossible to believe that Mr. and Mrs. Schindler would not have subpoenaed Ms. Iyer for the January 2000 evidentiary hearing had Iyer contacted them (in 1996) as her affidavit alleges." (PDF)
From 1990 to 1993, Michael and the Schindlers enjoyed an amicable relationship.  The Schindlers even allowed Michael to live rent-free in their condominium for several months. On June 18, 1990, the court appointed Michael Schiavo as Terri's legal guardian, without objection from the Schindlers.
During this time, the Schindlers actively encouraged Michael to "get on with his life." He was encouraged by the Schindlers to date, and he introduced his in-law family to women he was dating. 
On Valentine's Day of 1993, Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers had a falling-out. Schiavo claims the argument arose because he refused to share the settlement money with the Schindlers. The Schindlers claim that Michael failed to honor commitments he had previously made to seek aggressive treatments for his wife's condition.  The amicable relationship ended, and Michael and the Schindlers literally stopped speaking to each other.  Michael placed limits on how much time the Schindlers could spend with Terri Schiavo.
In July 1993, the Schindlers began their first challenge to Michael Schiavo's guardianship and attempted to remove him as legal guardian.
In 1994, after three years of trying traditional and experimental therapies, Schiavo accepted the diagnosis of an irreversible persistent vegetative state. At this point, Michael began to accept the idea of allowing his wife to die naturally, rather than remaining in a persistent vegetative state. In consultation with Terri's physician, Michael halted most therapy for his wife and entered a "do-not-resuscitate" order, which he later rescinded after the Schindlers and the nursing home protested. Wolfson wrote in his report that:
- In early 1994 Theresa contracted a urinary tract infection and Michael, in consultation with Theresa's treating physician, elected not to treat the infection and simultaneously imposed a do-not-resuscitate order should Theresa experience cardiac arrest. When the nursing facility initiated an intervention to challenge this decision, Michael cancelled the orders. Following the incident involving the infection, Theresa was transferred to another skilled nursing facility...
- Michael's decision not to treat was based upon discussions and consultation with Theresa's doctor, and was predicated on his reasoned belief that there was no longer any hope for Theresa's recovery. It had taken Michael more than three years to accommodate this reality and he was beginning to accept the idea of allowing Theresa to die naturally rather than remain in the non-cognitive, vegetative state.
In March 1994, guardian ad litem John H. Pecarek submitted his report, writing that Michael Schiavo had acted appropriately and attentively toward Terri Schiavo. Michael remained his wife's guardian.
In May 1998, Michael Schiavo filed a petition to discontinue life support for Terri Schiavo. Terri's parents fought it.
December 29, 1998, the second guardian ad litem, Richard Pearse, concludes that Terri Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state with no possibility of improvement and that Michael Schiavo's decisions may be influenced by the potential to inherit what remains of Terri Schiavo's estate. Due to a perceived lack of evidence for Terri's wishes, and questions regarding Michael Schiavo's credibility, Pearse recommends denying Michael Schiavo's petition to remove Terri's feeding tube.
According to Jay Wolfson, one of Mrs. Schiavo's court-appointed guardians, due to the attention Terri has received in the fifteen years she has been bedridden, she has never developed any bedsores.
Under Florida law and supported by rulings of State and Federal courts, Michael Schiavo, Terri's husband, was her legal guardian. Schiavo says his wife would not have wanted to live in a persistent vegetative state and that he was fighting for her right to die.
In 1991, Michael began studying nursing at St. Petersburg Community College to better care for his wife. He eventually became a respiratory therapist and an emergency room nurse.
In March 1994, guardian ad litem John H. Pecarek was appointed by the court to determine if there had been any abuse by Michael Schiavo. Pecarek's report found no evidence for any inappropriate actions and indicated that Michael had been very attentive to his wife.
In addition to Pecarek, a number of guardians ad litem as well as hospital staff members have described Michael Schiavo as a supportive husband who berated nurses for not taking better care of his wife; in 1994, the administration of one nursing home attempted, unsuccessfully, to get a restraining order against him because he was demanding more attention for his wife at the expense of other patients' care.  According to Jay Wolfson, one of Mrs. Schiavo's court-appointed guardians, due to the attention Terri has received in the fifteen years she has been bedridden, she has never developed any bedsores.
In an appearance on ABC News's Nightline on March 15, 2005, Michael Schiavo cited the willingness that Mrs. Schiavo's parents expressed to keep her alive by multiple extreme measures, including quadruple amputation if needed, as an important reason for denying transfer of guardianship to them or other parties with similar desires. 
Raising the issue of a possible conflict of interest is the fact that Mr. Schiavo stood to inherit the remainder of Mrs. Schiavo's malpractice settlement upon her death. Mr. Schiavo has publicly responded to this charge by claiming that less than $50,000 of the original award from the suit is left, the rest having been spent under a judge's supervision on medical care for Mrs. Schiavo and the ongoing legal battle. He also had a contract drafted stating that, should the Schindlers refrain from any further legal action, he would donate whatever his inheritance might be to charity. The Schindlers refused the offer.
On March 11, 2005, media tycoon Robert Herring (who believes that embryonic stem cell research could have cured Terri Schiavo's condition) offered $1 million to Michael Schiavo if he agreed to waive his guardianship to his wife's parents. The offer was rejected, Schiavo having reportedly found it "offensive." Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, stated that Mr. Schiavo has rejected other monetary offers, including one of $10 million.
Michael Schiavo has been criticized by the Schindlers and their supporters for entering into a relationship with another woman, Jodi Centonze, while still legally married to Mrs. Schiavo. Mr. Schiavo and Centonze have had two children together. Mr. Schiavo denies wrongdoing in this matter, stating that the Schindlers actively encouraged him to "get on with his life" and date since 1991. Michael said he chose not to divorce Terri and relinquish guardianship because he wanted to carry out her final wishes not to be kept alive in a persistent vegetative state.
Terri Schiavo's parents and siblings had been battling her husband over her fate since 1998. Even though the courts consistently upheld the ruling that Schiavo would choose to have her life support discontinued, her parents used every legal measure available to them to prevent the disconnection of her feeding tube. The Schindlers stated that even if Terri had told them of her intention to have artificial nutrition withdrawn, they would not do it. 
The Schindlers took videos of Terri that purportedly show her responding to them. They enlisted the services of Galaxywave, Inc., "psychic healers" who claim to possess "Remote Healing ADAM Technology." On several occasions, the Schindlers put Schiavo in contact with these psychics via cell phone during their visits with her. 
Her parents claimed that Schiavo was a devout Roman Catholic who did not wish to violate the Church's teachings on euthanasia by intentionally starving or dehydrating herself to death, and that she had never expressed such a desire to anyone in her birth family or circle of friends. The Schindlers' legal fight was funded by a variety of sources on the political right. 
Schiavo's father, Bob Schindler, criticized Judge Greer because he never called her into the courtroom or visited her to observe her condition firsthand. Schindler called the court order to remove the feeding tube "judicial homicide."
On March 28, 2005, The New York Times reported that the Schindlers planned to sell a list of people and organizations who have contributed financially to their legal fight to a direct-marketing organization that will solicit money from these people for anti-abortion and conservative groups. 
Two polls showed that a large majority of Americans believed that Michael Schiavo should have had the authority to make decisions on behalf of his wife and that the United States Congress overstepped its bounds with its intervention in the case. 
According to an ABC News poll from March 21, 70 percent of Americans believed that Terri Schiavo's death should not be a federal matter, and were opposed to the legislation transferring the case to federal court. In the same poll, when ABC said "Schiavo suffered brain damage and has been on life support for 15 years. Doctors say she has no consciousness and her condition is irreversible," 63 percent said that they support the removal of Schiavo's feeding tube. Sixty-seven percent agreed with the statement that "elected officials trying to keep Schiavo alive are doing so more for political advantage than out of concern for her or for the principles involved." 
A poll by CBS News reported on March 23 showed that 82 percent of respondents believed Congress and the President should stay out of the matter, while 74 percent thought it was "all about politics." Only 13 percent thought Congress acted out of concern for Terri Schiavo. Furthermore, the approval ratings of Congress sank to 34 percent, its lowest since 1997. 
A poll commissioned by the Christian Defense Coalition and completed by Zogby International after the death of Terri Schiavo found that, among likely voters, 44 percent said the tube should remain in place when asked, "[w]hen there is conflicting evidence on whether or not a patient would want to be on a feeding tube, should elected officials order that a feeding tube be removed or should they order that it remain in place?" Thirteen percent said the tube should be removed. Forty-four percent said the person should be allowed to live when asked, "[i]f a person becomes incapacitated and has no written statement that expresses his or her wishes regarding health care, should the law presume that the person wants to live, even if the person is receiving food and water through a tube?" (23 percent disagreed). These results were featured in many newspapers. Critics of the poll contend that the questions were leading and that the questions were not related to the Schiavo case.  The raw poll data is available online. 
One of the effects of this case is that Americans are showing an increased interest in living wills. Some legal experts say that many of the court battles could have been avoided if Schiavo had had one. Many newspapers ran editorials on the importance of having a living will.
Activism and protests
Vatican officials, U.S. President George W. Bush, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, many Republicans, and several Democrats in the Florida Legislature and U.S. Congress have sided with Mrs. Schiavo's parents. Other groups and individuals, including the American Civil Liberties Union as well as many Democratic and several Republican legislators, have expressed support for the position of Michael Schiavo.
Various Christian organizations demanded that Schiavo's feeding tube be reinserted. Most of these groups were affiliated with the Christian right, but the Reverend Jesse Jackson, a Democrat and civil rights activist, also called for Schiavo's feeding tube to be reinserted. On March 29, Jackson prayed with the Schindler family outside of Schiavo's Florida hospice. Some groups, such as Not Dead Yet, also protested the removal of Schiavo's feeding tube because they felt it violated the rights of the disabled.
Forty-seven protesters, including many children, were arrested outside the hospice where Schiavo was located. Most of these were non-violent, staged arrests for trespassing, made when protestors crossed a police line in a symbolic attempt to bring water to Schiavo. One man ran past police and reached the front door of the hospice; he was stunned with a Taser and was apprehended.
Arrests have been made in two separate murder plots against Michael Schiavo: one in which a North Carolina man is accused of offering $250,000 for the murder of Michael Schiavo and $50,000 for the murder of Judge Greer, and the other in which Michael Mitchell of Rockford, Illinois, robbed a Florida gun store as part of an effort to "rescue Terri Schiavo." Additionally, the wife of one of Michael Schiavo's brothers has been targeted; a white car drove by her home three times over the course of several hours, and on the last pass the driver shouted to her, "If Terri dies, I'm coming back to shoot you and your family." Another of Michael Schiavo's brothers says that he receives death threats every time the case is in the news. 
On the day Terri Schiavo died, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay criticized the legal system and said, "The time will come for the men responsible [the judges] for this to answer for their behavior." He also threatened to impeach the judges who refused to intervene on Terri Schiavo's behalf. "We will look at an unaccountable, arrogant, out-of-control judiciary that thumbed their nose at Congress and the president," DeLay said.
Judge Greer and his family are under protection from U.S. Marshals due to death threats for having ruled against restoring Terri Schiavo's feeding tube. Additionally, he has been asked to leave his Southern Baptist congregation, Calvary Baptist Church, in Clearwater, a move some might see as excommunication. 
On April 14, 2005, DeLay held a news conference and issued a retraction for his comments. He stated, "I said something in an inartful way, and I shouldn't have said it that way, and I apologize for saying it that way."
Both state and federal governments have made use of extraordinary measures to support the Schindlers.
In October, 2003, when the Schindlers' final appeal was exhausted, the Florida Legislature passed "Terri's Law" to give Florida Governor Jeb Bush authority to intervene in the case, which he exercised by ordering the feeding tube immediately reinserted. Judge Baird and the Florida Supreme Court both dismissed the law as unconstitutional.
In March, 2005, after the order to remove the feeding tube was given by Judge Greer, Republicans in the U.S. Congress subpoenaed Terri Schiavo to testify at two seperate congressional inquiries (it is a federal crime to prevent congressional witnesses from testifying). Greer struck the subpoenas down as unconstitutional, which Congress did not appeal. Despite a lack of quorum, Congress also passed the law known as the Palm Sunday Compromise, which President George W. Bush had returned from Crawford, Texas to Washington, D.C. to sign, thereby giving jurisdiction of the Schiavo case to federal courts. The U.S. Supreme Court refused the Schindlers' writ of certiorari, effectively quashing their legal options.
On March 26, 2005, Bob and Mary Schindler announced that their legal options had been exhausted. Paul O'Donnell, a Franciscan monk and the spiritual adviser to the Schindler family, announced to those holding a vigil outside the hospice in Pinellas Park, "The family would request that everyone go home, be with your children, hold them close and share every moment you have with them."
On March 27, Schiavo was given the Anointing of the Sick ("Last Rites"). In accordance with Catholic tradition, a drop of consecrated wine was applied to her tongue, but a small piece of the host (a holy wafer) was unable to be offered. She had also been given Holy Communion through the feeding tube just before it was removed.
Terri Schiavo died at 9:05 a.m. EST on Thursday, March 31. According to Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, she died a "calm, peaceful and gentle death," cradled in her husband's arms.
Michael Schiavo had arrived at 8:45 a.m. EST that day. Terri Schiavo's brother, Bobby Schindler, was visiting Terri with his sister, Suzanne Vitadamo, but they were asked to leave ten minutes before Schiavo's death. Hospice officials asked the pair to leave so that Schiavo could be examined. Bobby challenged the decision, but Michael Schiavo decided not to allow him to stay. Terri's parents, who had been denied access to her during her last hours, traveled to the hospice to visit her when they were informed that she may be approaching death, arriving half an hour after her death. The Schindler family was allowed into the room after Michael Schiavo had left it.    
The body of Terri Schiavo arrived at the office of the medical examiner within three hours of her death. The autopsy was completed on April 1 by Pinellas County's medical examiner's office . Supporters of the Schindlers had contended that the autopsy was required by Florida law, as the body was to be cremated, but the strict wording of the statute states only that the medical examiner has the authority to conduct an autopsy before a cremation if he or she deems it necessary. 
The examiner's office has said it would conduct examinations on Terri Schiavo's body and look for any evidence of what might have caused her 1990 collapse. A neuropathologist was also to conduct an exam. 
The results of the autopsy have yet to be released; however, it is probable that cause of death will be shown to be due to heart failure resulting from the effects of dehydration, which interferes with body chemistry and causes abnormalities in the heart rate (known as arrhythmia).
Schiavo's body was cremated following the autopsy.
The parents of Terri Schiavo offered a memorial Mass in her honor at the Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church in Gulfport on April 5. Father Frank Pavone, an activist with Priests for Life,  delivered the main sermon. 
- Individuals who played significant roles in debates or legal actions regarding the removal of life support:
- Rhetorical terms used during the public and political debates
- Terri Schiavo Case: Legal Issues Involving Health care Directives, Death, and Dying. Findlaw. A detailed compilation of legal documents related to the Schiavo case. 
- The New York Times Database (1996-present): An index of 71 articles from The New York Times relating to the Schiavo case (requires free registration) .
- "Before fight over death, Terri Schiavo had a life." CNN. October 25, 2003. 
- Breed, Allen G., and Matt Crenson. "Doctors: Schiavo tapes don't tell story." Associated Press. March 26, 2005. 
- Carey, Benedict, and John Schwartz. "Schiavo's condition holds little chance of recovery." The New York Times. March 26, 2005.
- "Excerpts from diagnoses of 6 Schiavo doctors." Associated Press. March 24. 
- Fackelmann, Kathleen. "Schiavo not likely to experience a painful death, neurologists say." USA Today. March 23, 2005. 
- Graham, Judith. "Schiavo's expressions misleading, experts say." Chicago Tribune. March 25, 2005. 
- Kumar, Anita. "The Terri Schiavo Case: Before the Circus" St. Petersburg Times. April 3, 2005. 
- Lamendola, Bob. "Neurologists see little sign of activity in Schiavo's brain." South Florida Sun-Sentinel. March 23, 2005. 
- Rufty, Bill. "Doctors lament misuse of proper terminology in Schiavo debate." The Ledger. March 23, 2005. 
- Schwartz, Jerry. "Friends remember Schiavo before maelstrom." Associated Press. March 31, 2005. 
- Circuit Court for Pinellas County, Florida Probate Division, Richard Pearse (1998). Report of Guardian Ad Litem. Hospice Patients Alliance. Retrieved March 31, 2005. (PDF)
- State of Florida, County of Duval, Dr. Cheshire (2005). Affidavit. Retrieved April 14, 2005. (PDF)
- Supreme Court of Florida (2004). JEB BUSH, Governor of Florida, et al., Appellants, vs. MICHAEL SCHIAVO, Guardian of Theresa Schiavo, Appellee.. Retrieved March 31, 2005. (PDF) (Florida Supreme Court Decision overturning Terri's Law as unconstitutional)
- United States Senate (2003). SENATE AMENDMENT - "Terri's Law." Retrieved March 31, 2005. (PDF)
- Wolfson, Jay (2003). A REPORT TO GOVERNOR JEB BUSH AND THE 6TH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT IN THE MATTER OF THERESA MARIE SCHIAVO. Conigliaro, Matt; Abstract Appeal. Retrieved March 31, 2005.
- Amicus National, Inc. (2005). LIVING WILL / STATE SPECIFIC. Site providing living will forms on a state-by-state basis. Retrieved April 16, 2005
- Cerminara, Kath; Goodman, Kenneth (2005). KEY EVENTS IN THE CASE OF THERESA MARIE SCHIAVO. University of Miami Ethics Programs and the Shepard Broad Law Center at Nova Southeastern University. Retrieved March 31, 2005.
- Conigliaro, Matt (2005). THE TERRI SCHIAVO INFORMATION PAGE. Retrieved March 31, 2005.
- Yahoo! Inc (2005). Directory > Government > Law > Cases > Terri Schiavo Case. Retrieved March 31, 2005.
- Zorn, Eric (2005). FOR YOUR REFERENCE - THE SCHIAVO CASE. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 31, 2005
Advocacy and commentary sites
- Abstract Appeal
- Blogs For Terri (2005). Retrieved March 31, 2005.
- Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation (2005). Retrieved March 31, 2005.
- Compassion in Dying, End of Life Choices Retrieved April 9, 2005.
- End-of-Life Choices Retrieved April 12, 2005
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