Suspicious Circumstances: The Strange Case of Terri Schiavo

Suspicious Circumstances: The Strange Case of Terri Schiavo
By Jennifer King
November 24, 2003

As the case of Terri Schiavo slips away from the front pages, it is worth revisiting the odd twists and tangles of this bizarre case. There are mysterious connections and odd characters which, so far, have failed to elicit the curiosity of the mainstream media. To recap the case, Terri Schiavo collapsed at home in 1990, under suspicious circumstances. Her lapse into a vigorously debated “vegetative” state is usually blamed on a potassium deficiency, but hospital admittance records also show evidence of trauma to her neck.

Further questions arise from testimony of one of her friends, who allege that Terri was unhappy and contemplating a divorce from her husband, Michael. Michael is alleged to have been possessive and jealous, at one point falling into a rage when Terri spent $80 on a haircut.

After the accident, Michael became Terri’s guardian, and he used that position to seek a hefty malpractice award. A sympathetic jury took the seemingly distraught Michael at his word, awarding him 1.2 million, earmarked for Terri’s rehabilitation, with an additional $300,000 going directly to him for “loss of consortium”. After receiving the award, however, Michael seemingly lost all interest in Terri’s rehabilitation. Several nurses who worked with Terri in the early 1990s filed affidavits which detail some very troubling events. Nurse Carolyn Johnson alleges that Michael Schiavo was adamant about not providing any rehabilitation at all for Terri – including common therapies such as placing a towel in her hands to keep them from seizing up. Nurse Heidi Law testified that she would feed Terri with a wet washcloth. Terri was able to swallow these without trouble. Nurse Law also testified that Michael refused to allow any therapy whatsoever, including the usual range of motion exercises. Nurse Carla Saver Iyer had the most damning testimony. Iyer alleged that Michael would enter Terri’s room, saying, “Has the bitch died yet?” Iyer says that Michael was “elated” each time Terri’s condition worsened, telling her that when Terri died he was “going to be rich” and that he planned on buying a car, a boat, and traveling to Europe. Law and Iyer both allege that they heard Terri speak, saying, “help me” and “momma”.

Michael Schiavo clearly has some explaining to do. A supposedly “loving” husband only carrying out his disabled wife’s orders, surely wouldn’t behave this way. The Schindlers, Terri’s parents, further allege that Michael withheld antibiotics when Terri developed an infection, refused to clean her teeth for seven years and has kept her family and friends from visiting her. Most outrageously, when the feeding tube was disconnected and Terri lay dying, Michael also denied her last Communion – on the basis that the Host could be considered food.

Another oddity enters the case in the personage of Schiavo’s lawyer, George Felos. Felos is a noted “right to die” lawyer, who has written a book on how he “communicates” with the souls of disabled people. Felos asserts that he can “hear their screams” and that they “want to be released.” Felos was infuriated when Terri’s feeding tube was replaced. He angrily denounced the move, saying bizarrely that Terri’s “deathbed experience was unlawfully stopped.” Felos, a past member of the Hemlock Society, clearly hopes to advance along the Crusade of Death, with maybe a book and/or movie deal thrown in for good measure. Felos was Chairman of the Board of the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast, when Terri was secretly whisked out of the hospital and taken there to die.

What does Michael Schiavo gain from killing his wife? Both he and Felos have said that there is only about $60,000 left from the malpractice award monies, but they refuse to make bank account information available to either the Schindlers or the public. Michael’s professed reasons for ending Terri’s life ring particularly hollow in light of the fact that he has been living with his girlfriend since 1995. They have one child, and another is on the way. The Schindlers allegedly offered to let him keep the malpractice money if he would just divorce Terri and move on. So why won’t he?

Several possible incentives exist. One is the insurance money. None was used as mandated on Terri’s rehabilitation, and it could have been invested. By now the sum could be substantially higher, even with his legal fees. Fr. Robert Johansen has also theorized that, by divorcing Terri in a community property state, Michael stands to lose half of his possessions and other monies. Better just to kill her off and keep what’s left of the insurance money and all of his worldly goods.

Terri’s family believes that Michael is intent upon killing her for the same reason he denied her rehabilitation – he’s got something to hide and he doesn’t want Terri waking up and talking about it. Several medical documents in their possession lend credence to this theory.

Michael must be made to answer some very serious questions. If he isn’t trying to end Terri’s life for nefarious reasons there must be another answer. At the very least, he should be called to account on why he spent money earmarked for Terri’s recovery instead on lawyers who are trying mightily to have her killed.