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Bob and Mary Schindler

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Bob and Mary Schindler (courtesy Bay News 9)

The Schindler family maintains Terri has consistently exhibited a strong will to live, despite the February 2000 ruling by Judge George Greer of the 6th Judicial Circuit Court in Clearwater, Fla., that she would not want to be kept alive by artificial means. Greer's ruling was based on the testimony by Michael Schiavo, his brother, and his brother's wife that Terri made "casual statements" to them a year before her injury that she would not want to be kept alive artificially. Greer declared that testimony "clear and convincing evidence" of Terri Schiavo's wishes.

Florida law allows for consideration of oral expressions of end-of-life wishes.

Michael Schiavo told the court he and Terri had talked about life support when her grandmother was in a nursing home, unconscious for weeks and on a ventilator. He testified that Terri had said, "If I ever have to be a burden to anybody, I don't want to live like that."Under Florida law, a feeding tube is considered a life-support device on par with a respirator.

Michael Schiavo (Photo: Baynews9.com)

"My aim is to carry out Terri's wishes," Michael Schiavo told WND after court proceedings in October 2002. "If Terri would even know that I had somebody taking care of her bodily functions, she'd kill us all in a heartbeat. She'd be so angry," he added.

The Schindlers disputed Schiavo's court testimony, and maintain Terri would never have said such a thing, that it would be completely out of character. They also argued that as a devout Roman Catholic, their daughter believes in the sanctity of life.

A girlfriend of Terri's concurred. In court testimony, Diane Meyer shared her recollection of a conversation she had with Terri after watching the 1982 television movie about Karen Ann Quinlan. Meyer said Terri told her she did not agree with the well-known decision by Quinlan's parents to take their comatose daughter off her respirator. Meyer remembers Terri wondering aloud how doctors and lawyers could possibly know what Quinlan was feeling or what she would want.

"Where there's life," Meyer recalled Terri saying, according to the The Buffalo News, "there's hope."

Although initially finding Meyer's testimony "believable," Greer concluded the conversation could not have occurred in 1982, because he believed Quinlan died in 1976. At that time, Terri would have been only 11 or 12 years old and, therefore, would not have made her end-of-life wishes as an adult.

As WND reported, none of the attorneys working on the Schiavo case at the time apparently noticed Greer's mistake in dates; Quinlan did not die until 1985, about nine years after her court case ended and her respirator was removed.

Last month, attorneys for the Schindlers filed a motion claiming Greer made a "reversible error" in discounting Meyer's testimony, which affected his determination of whether Terri Schiavo would want to be kept alive in her present condition.

Schiavo story changes

The Schindlers question why Michael Schiavo only belatedly recalled his wife's "casual statements" allegedly refusing life support. Specifically, they point out he changed his story after winning more than $1.5 million dollars in a medical-malpractice lawsuit against Terri's physicians who, Schiavo successfully argued, should have treated her potassium imbalance before it resulted in cardiac arrest. As WND reported, Michael Schiavo filed a petition in May 1998 to disconnect his wife's feeding tube reportedly to carry out her wishes.

During the malpractice-suit trial nearly six years earlier in November 1992, Michael Schiavo made no mention of his wife's alleged wish to die and conversely pleaded for the opportunity to personally take care of his wife at home for the rest of his life. He sought $20 million to cover the cost of her future medical and neurological care, estimating her life expectancy was 50 years.

Schiavo told the jury he was studying nursing because he wanted "to learn more how to take care of Terri." According to a transcript of his testimony, Michael Schiavo was asked how he felt about being married to Terri, given her condition.

"I feel wonderful. She's my life and I wouldn't trade her for the world," he replied. "I believe in my wedding vows. ... I believe in the vows I took with my wife, through sickness, in health, for richer or poor. I married my wife because I love her and I want to spend the rest of my life with her. I'm going to do that."

Bob Schindler points to the Woodside Hospice in Pinellas Park, Fla., where his brain-injured daughter resides. (Photo: David Nee)

"Less than eight months later, [Michael Schiavo] tried to stop her medication for an infection," Bob Schindler told WND. "She would have died but the nursing home where she was at the time overruled him and treated her. ... Then he put a 'Do Not Resuscitate' order in her medical chart."

When the hospice staff challenged the order's legality, Schiavo backed away from it.

As for not treating the urinary tract infection, Michael Schiavo testified he was following her doctor's advice.

But his brother, Brian Schiavo, believes he'd lost all hope of Terri recovering.

''I think he finally saw the reality of it,'' Brian Schiavo told the New York Times.

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