March 26, 2006

Schiavo’s husband, family battle in books

By Robert Green

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (Reuters) - A year after the death
of Terri Schiavo, her parents and husband release books this
week attacking each other over the decision to let the
brain-damaged Florida woman die by removing her feeding tube.

Terri Schiavo died on March 31, 2005, at the age of 41, 13
days after the feeding tube was removed under a legal order
granted to her husband, Michael, and opposed by her parents,
the religious right, Republican leaders in Congress and
President George W. Bush.

She had been in what her doctors said was a persistent
vegetative state, unable to eat, think or communicate since her
heart stopped beating for several minutes in 1990, starving her
brain of oxygen. An autopsy showed her brain had atrophied to
half its normal size.

Michael had long insisted that Terri had told him she would
not want to continue living in such a condition. But her
parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, said they believed she did
not want to die and could improve with treatment.

Their long legal battle eventually became a cause celebre
for the Christian right and other groups concerned about issues
raised by the case. Bush, Congress, the Vatican and federal and
state courts became involved and hundreds of demonstrators
flocked to her hospice near St. Petersburg in the days before
her death.

In their book, "A Life That Matters: The Legacy of Terri
Schiavo - A Lesson for Us All," the Schindlers again accuse
Michael Schiavo of abusing Terri and say she wouldn't have
wanted her feeding tube removed.

"Our family will never believe Terri wanted to die this
way," Terri's brother, Bobby Schindler, said in an interview.

Bobby and his sister, Suzanne Schindler Vitadamo, helped
write the book with their parents. It is published by Warner
Books and proceeds are intended for a charitable foundation to
support others who find themselves in similar circumstances.

In his book, "Terri: The Truth," Michael Schiavo said he
was determined to carry out his wife's wishes despite death
threats and other pressures.

"A religious zealot put a $250,000 bounty on my head,
urging that I be tortured before I'm killed. I was condemned by
the president of the United States, the majority leaders of the
House and Senate, the governor of Florida, the pope, Jesse
Jackson and the right-wing media," Michael said in an excerpt
from the book, written with Michael Hirsh and published by


In an interview to be broadcast on Sunday on NBC's
"Dateline," Michael said, "I was doing something Terri wanted.
And I couldn't give up on her. I came this far. And I wasn't
gonna let anyone stand in my way.

"She's up there praising me right now and saying 'Thank
you,"' he added. It wasn't clear what Michael Schiavo intended
to do with any proceeds from the book.

Bobby and Suzanne said they try not to think much about
Michael, but believe he should be questioned about what
happened on the day Terri collapsed.

"We believe he knows what happened to her that night,"
Bobby Schindler said.

Michael has always said he woke up to find his wife
unconscious on the floor of their apartment and immediately
called for help.

A state investigation found no evidence of foul play and an
autopsy found no sign that Terri had suffered any trauma or
abuse, but could not determine the cause of her collapse.

Terri's feeding tube was first removed in 2001 but was
reinserted two days later by a judge's order. It was removed
again in 2003, but the Florida Legislature passed a special
bill allowing Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother and a
devout Catholic convert, to order the tube put back in.

That bill was ruled unconstitutional and the tube was
removed for the final time on March 18, 2005.

Two days later, the U.S. Congress passed a bill in a rare
Sunday session at the urging of Republican leaders, requiring
federal courts to review the case. President Bush flew back to
Washington from Texas to sign the bill.

But a federal judge in Tampa refused to order the feeding
tube reinserted and his decision was upheld by an appeals court
and the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Schindlers formed the Terri Schindler Schiavo
Foundation in 2001 to help keep Terri alive and plan to
continue it to help families in similar situations. Profits
from their book will go to that foundation.

Michael Schiavo has formed a political action committee,
Terripac, to endorse candidates who promise to keep the
government out of family end-of-life decisions.

In January, he married Jodi Centonze, the woman he has
lived with for almost a decade. They have two children.

Michael's book goes on sale March 27, a day before the
Schindlers' book.