From: "Dave Burton" <dave at>
Subject: Terri Schiavo
Date: March 27, 2005

Terri Schiavo


"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves."
-Prov. 31:8

"Rescue those being led away to death."
-Prov. 24:11

" you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me."
-Matthew 25:40,45

There are four claims made to justify allowing Michael Schiavo to order Terri Schiavo to be killed. All four are necessary to justify it. If any of the four is untrue or unproven then it is impossible to justify what is being done to her:

CLAIM #1)  Terri is on "life support," in the form of a feeding tube, without which she will die.

CLAIM #2)  She is in a "persistent vegetative state," completely unaware of her surroundings, and there is no hope for improvement in her condition. Sometimes it is claimed that her entire cerebral cortex is missing.

CLAIM #3)  Her husband, Michael, is a fit guardian for her, has her best interests at heart, and seeks only to follow her wishes.

CLAIM #4)  Prior to her hospitalization (at age 26 in 1990), she had expressed a wish to not be kept alive if in such a state.


Note that only one judge in one Florida court has ever evaluated the facts in this case: the "trier of fact," county probate Judge George Greer.

Upon closer examination it turns out that all four of those claims are either highly questionable or demonstrably false. Yet Judge Greer has explicitly ruled that claims 2, 3 & 4 are true.


CLAIM #1)  Terri Schiavo is on "life support," in the form of a feeding tube, without which she will die.

A:  Probably false.

In the first place, a feeding tube was not considered to be "life support" under Florida law back when Terri was hospitalized.

But it is not removal of her feeding tube which will kill her. It is deprivation of food and water by any means. Her estranged husband, Michael, and Judge Greer, will not permit her to receive food and water by mouth, either.

Judge Greer's order was not for the removal of her feeding tube. It was an order to "cause the removal of nutrition and hydration from the Ward, Theresa Schiavo."

In a separate ruling, Judge Greer explicitly ordered that Terri not be provided "with food and water by natural means."

The feeding tube is mainly a convenience for her caregivers. She swallows liquids normally, and, in fact, swallows large amounts of saliva every day, just as we all do. A sympathetic nurse used to sneak her Jell-O snacks when her husband wasn't around, because she obviously enjoyed them, though he had given orders that she not be fed. Numerous therapists and physicians say that they believe that she could be weaned from the feeding tube and spoon-fed, instead.


CLAIM #2)  Terri is in a "persistent vegetative state," completely unaware of her surroundings, and there is no hope for improvement in her condition.

A:  Probably false, and certainly unproven.

A diagnosis of PVS is inconsistent with the responsiveness which Terri's family and many other people have reported, and even with the very limited videotapes of her behavior during a court ordered medical examination. (Michael Schiavo has forbidden other videotapes from being made.)

Numerous neurologists and other doctors have expressed strong doubts about the correctness of her diagnosis, and dismay at the scant evidence upon which it was based. Here's an excerpt from an article which quotes two of those neurologists:

Almost 50 neurologists all say the same thing: Terri should be reevaluated, Terri should be reexamined, and there are grave doubts as to the accuracy of Terri's diagnosis of PVS. All of these neurologists are board-certified; a number of them are fellows of the prestigious American Academy of Neurology; several are professors of neurology at major medical schools. ...

Terri's diagnosis was arrived at without the benefit of testing that most neurologists would consider standard for diagnosing PVS. One such test is MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). MRI is widely used today, even for ailments as simple as knee injuries but Terri has never had one. Michael has repeatedly refused to consent to one. The neurologists I have spoken to have reacted with shock upon learning this fact. One such neurologist is Dr. Peter Morin. He is a researcher specializing in degenerative brain diseases, and has both an M.D. and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Boston University.

In the course of my conversation with Dr. Morin, he made reference to the standard use of MRI and PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scans to diagnose the extent of brain injuries. He seemed to assume that these had been done for Terri. I stopped him and told him that these tests have never been done for her; that Michael had refused them.

There was a moment of dead silence.

"That's criminal," he said, and then asked, in a tone of utter incredulity: "How can he continue as guardian? People are deliberating over this woman's life and death and there's been no MRI or PET?" He drew a reasonable conclusion: "These people [Michael Schiavo, George Felos, and Judge Greer] don't want the information."

Dr. Morin explained that he would feel obligated to obtain the information in these tests before making a diagnosis with life and death consequences. I told him that CT (Computer-Aided Tomography) scans had been done, and were partly the basis for the finding of PVS. The doctor retorted, "Spare no expense, eh?" I asked him to explain the comment; he said that a CT scan is a much less expensive test than an MRI, but "it only gives you a tenth of the information an MRI does." He added, "A CT scan is useful only in pretty severe cases, such as trauma, and also during the few days after an anoxic (lack of oxygen) brain injury. It's useful in an emergency-room setting. But if the question is ischemic injury [brain damage caused by lack of blood/oxygen to part of the brain] you want an MRI and PET. For subsequent evaluation of brain injury, the CT is pretty useless unless there has been a massive stroke."

Other neurologists have concurred with Dr. Morin's opinion. Dr. Thomas Zabiega, who trained at the University of Chicago, said, "Any neurologist who is objective would say 'Yes'" to the question, "Should Terri be given an MRI?"

You can read the full article here: (or here)

In March, 2005, neurologist William Cheshire, M.D., M.A., F.A.A.N., evaluated Terri for the Florida Department of Children and Families, and reviewed her medical records. He reported that her diagnosis of PVS is "faulty," and inconsistent with her behavior. For example, he noted that:

When I first walked into her room, she immediately turned her head toward me and looked directly at my face. There was a look of curiosity or expectation in her expression, and she maintained eye contact for about half a minute.
Dr. Cheshire concluded that:
In summary, Terri Schiavo demonstrates behaviors in a variety of cognitive domains that call into question the previous neurologic diagnosis of persistent vegetative state. Specifically, she has demonstrated behaviors that are context-specific, sustained, and indicative of cerebral cortical processing that, upon careful neurologic consideration, would not be expected in a persistent vegetative state. Based on this evidence, I believe that, within a reasonable degree of medical certainty, there is a greater likelihood that Terri is in a minimally conscious state than a persistent vegetative state... [and] in my judgment it would be wrong to bring about her death by withdrawing food and water.
You can read Dr. Cheshire's full report here:  (or here)


CLAIM #3)  Terri's husband, Michael, is a fit guardian for her, and has only her wishes at heart.

A:  Emphatically false.

Terri was (according to sworn testimony of multiple witnesses) preparing to divorce Michael, at the time of her injury.

There is strong evidence that she was abused by her husband. Her co-worker & friend, Jackie Rhodes, says that she often came to work with bruises on her thighs and upper arms, and in the year prior to her collapse, she suffered numerous traumatic injuries, injuries severe enough that evidence of them was still visible on a bone scan done one year after her hospitalization, but which she had kept secret from her family (a classic pattern in domestic abuse cases):

Michael Schiavo has a well-documented history of violent behavior and explosive rages, and a former girlfriend, Cindy Shook, is terrified of him. He has assaulted Terri's brother, Bobby Schiavo, and frightened her sister, Suzanne Vitadamo.
(Terri's family suspects that Michael's abuse caused Terri's collapse, and at least one physician shares that suspicion, but it is unproven.)

Terri's collapse occurred in February 1990. Though Michael had CPR training, he left her lying face-down on the floor, gasping for breath, which is how paramedics found her. (Paramedics deemed the circumstances suspicious enough that police were called, but no criminal charges were filed.)

In 1991 he became romantically involved with Ms. Cindy Shook. In early 1992, he decided to move in with Cindy, but she had a dog. So to facilitate the move he had Terri's two beloved and perfectly healthy cats, Shanna and Tolly, euthanized. (Michael later claimed that it was Terri's mother who wanted the cats killed, but the veterinarian has stated that there was never any suggestion from her that it be done, and that it was Michael who demanded it.)

Michael is now living with a different girlfriend, whom he calls his "fiancee," and with whom he has two children. Michael had Terri's engagement and wedding rings melted down to make jewelry for himself, and he has liquidated most or all of her medical trust account to pay his legal bills and other expenses.

Michael is quoted in sworn testimony by nurses as fuming, "when is that bitch gonna die?" and similar sentiments, presumably because he stood to inherit her medical trust fund upon her death.

A nurse and 2 nursing assistants have testified that he was abusive to her when she was in the nursing home. He deprived her of basic medical care, and even the most basic therapy, such as range of motion therapy. She has lost five teeth due to dental neglect. One of Terri's former nurses is even convinced that he tried to kill her by insulin injection. (Carla Iyer, RN - affidavit) (Heidi Law, CNA - affidavit) (Carolyn Johnson, CNA - affidavit)

He has severely limited the time that Terri's family and priest can spend with her, denied her family access to her medical and financial records, and even ordered that a priest not be allowed to give her Holy Communion. (or here)

But besides the money, there is apparently another reason that Michael won't permit Terri's parents to care for her: SPITE. He hates his in-laws, and wants revenge. At least, that's close to what he said in a deposition on September 27, 1999, when asked why he will not turn over guardianship to her parents:

Page 48-49

Q. Have you considered turning the guardianship over to Mr. and Mrs. Schindler?

SCHIAVO: No, I have not.

Q. And why?

SCHIAVO: I think that's pretty self explanatory.

Q. I'd like to hear your answer.

SCHIAVO: Basically I don't want to do it.

Q. And why don't you want to do it?

SCHIAVO: Because they put me through pretty much hell the last few years.

Q. And can you describe what you mean by hell?

SCHIAVO: The litigations they put me through.

Q. Any other specifics besides the litigation?

SCHIAVO: Just their attitude towards me because of the litigations. There is no other reason. I'm Terri's husband and I will remain guardian.

Then his lawyer (Felos) asks for a private word with his client:

Mr. Felos: There may be a question or two of clarification. Can I have just a minute to talk with my client?

Then we have Felos's cross-examination:

Page 51

Felos: You were also asked a question about resigning as guardian or would you consider that. Upon reflection, is there anything that you want to add in response to that question?

SCHIAVO: Yeah. Another reason would be that her parents wouldn't carry out her wishes.

Michael Schiavo's behavior is obviously inconsistent with a desire to do what Terri would want. He certainly knows that Terri would not have wanted her cats killed and her family kept away from her. His behavior, his obvious conflicts of interest, and even his own words make him unfit to be her guardian.


CLAIM #4)  Prior to Terri's hospitalization (at age 26 in 1990), she had expressed a preference to die rather than be kept alive in such a state.

A. False.

Before the malpractice award, the remainder of which Michael Schiavo will inherit if Terri dies, neither he nor anyone else ever claimed that she had ever expressed a desire to not live in a condition like she now finds herself, and during the malpractice trial he pledged to use the money to provide her with therapy (which he has not done).

In fact, during the first couple of years after her injury, he often said that that he had no idea what Terri would want (according to sworn testimony by multiple witnesses).
But after the award, which meant that he would receive hundreds of thousands of dollars upon her death, he ordered a halt to her therapy, and even to routine medical and dental care. Then, after he hired euthanasia activist Felos as his attorney in 1997, Michael suddenly "remembered" conversations in which Terri had supposedly said that she would not want to be kept alive in circumstances like she currently finds herself.

Terri's former guardian ad litem, Dr. Pearse, concluded that Michael Schiavo's claim that Terri had expressed such a preference was not credible:

After February, 1993, Mr. SCHIAVO'S attitude concerning treatment for the ward apparently changed. Early in 1994, for example, he refused to consent to treat an infection from which the ward was then suffering and ordered that she not be resuscitated in the event of cardiac arrest. The nursing home where she resided at that time sought to intervene, which ultimately led the ward's husband to reverse his decision and authorize antibiotic treatment. It also resulted in a transfer of the ward to the nursing home where she now resides. ...

Mr. SCHIAVO indicated strongly to the undersigned that his petition to withdraw life support has nothing to do with the money held in the guardianship estate, which he would inherit upon the ward's death as her sole heir-at-law.

Mr. SCHIAVO has admitted at least two romantic involvements since the ward's accident...

The only direct evidence probative of the issue of the ward's intent is the hearsay testimony of her husband, Mr. SCHIAVO, who seeks withdrawal of the ward's feeding tube which would inevitably result in her death. However, his credibility is necessarily adversely affected by the obvious financial benefit to him of being the ward's sole heir at law in the event of her death while still married to him. Her death also permits him to get on with his own life.

In the opinion of the undersigned guardian ad litem, Mr. SCHIAVO'S credibility is also adversely affected by the chronology of this case. ... At or around the time the litigation was finally concluded, he has a change of heart concerning further treatment ... From that point forward, the ward's husband has isolated the ward from her parents, has on at lest one occasion refused to consent for the ward to be treated for an infection, and, ultimately, four years later, has filed the instant petition for the withdrawal of life support on the basis of evidence apparently known only to him which could have been asserted at any time during the ward's illness.

...the undersigned guardian ad litem is of the opinion that the evidence of the ward's intentions developed by the guardian ad litem's investigation does not meet the clear and convincing standard. ... is the recommendation of the guardian ad litem that the petition for removal [of life support measures] be denied. (or here)

Two close friends of Terri's, Diane Meyer and Jackie Rhodes, both recall that Terri once expressed the strong opinion that Karen Ann Quinlan should not have been removed from a respirator.

Terri's remark was in apparently in response to a joke about Karen Quinlan. "What is the state vegetable of New Jersey?" Meyer asked Terri. The punch line was "Karen Ann Quinlan."

"She said the joke wasn't funny and did not approve of what was going on in the Quinlan case," Meyer testified, referring to the legal battle to remove Quinlan from a respirator. "I remember one of the things she said is, 'How did they know she would want this?'",0,1244089.story?coll=ny-health-headlines (or here) (or here)

Most remarkably, a few days ago Michael Schiavo departed from Felos's script, and admitted the truth on Larry King Live: (or here)

CNN LARRY KING LIVE March 18, 2005:

KING: Have you had any contact with the family today? This is a sad day all the way around, Michael. We know of your dispute.

M. SCHIAVO: I've had no contact with them.

KING: No contact at all?


KING: Do you understand how they feel?

M. SCHIAVO: Yes, I do. But this is not about them, it's about Terri. And I've also said that in court. We didn't know what Terri wanted, but this is what we want...

Read that last sentence again:

M. SCHIAVO: "We didn't know what Terri wanted, but this is what we want..."

That's consistent with what Michael told other people (including a girlfriend) before the malpractice settlement was awarded (which he stood to inherit): that he didn't know what Terri's wishes would be. It is also consistent with his sworn testimony during the malpractice trial, that he would care for Terri in her disabled state for the rest of his natural life. It also vindicates guardian ad litem Pearse.

It also means that a key official conclusion of Judge Greer was wrong. Greer ruled that there was "clear and convincing" evidence that Terri had told Michael that she not wish be kept alive with assisted feeding or other support if she were in this condition. But now we have proof it is untrue, because Michael Schiavo, himself, admitted it:

Terri never expressed a wish to die in circumstances like these.


P.S. -- Here's a good web site:

For more information, and what you can do to help, see: