Books propel feud over Schiavo's life

Husband and parents write about struggle over brain-damaged woman

April 02, 2006|By JUDITH GRAHAM | JUDITH GRAHAM,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

A year after Terri Schiavo's death, there is no forgetting or forgiving for her divided family, whose struggle over withdrawing life support for the brain-injured woman transfixed the nation.

Far from it, the bitter feud goes on in dueling "tell-all" books being published by Schiavo's husband and her parents this week. Both are scathing attempts to settle accounts; neither party has found any measure of reconciliation, they acknowledge.

Both sides have also started organizations to wage their battle in the public arena.

Michael Schiavo's group, Terri PAC, hopes to mobilize voters against politicians who would interfere with families' ability to make end-of-life decisions for loved ones. Michael Schiavo fought successfully to remove his wife's feeding tube, saying it was what she told him she wanted if she became permanently incapacitated.

"There are forces in our country who believe it is their right to tell you how to live, how to behave and what to believe," Schiavo wrote in Terri: The Truth, published tomorrow. "We need to start shouting."

Robert and Mary Schindler have reorganized the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation to mount a political attack on what they call "the deliberate killing of the disabled or anyone deemed `unworthy' of life." Their book, A Life That Matters: The Legacy of Terri Schiavo, comes out Tuesday.

The Schindlers fought to keep their daughter's feeding tube intact, arguing that she would have wanted to live under any circumstances.

"We have launched a battle with the euthanasia movement," Robert Schindler said in a phone interview.

The presence of Terri in their thoughts might be the only thing that unites Michael Schiavo and his former in-laws.

"Terri is always in my mind. She never leaves. She's always a part of my life," said Michael Schiavo, who was married to her for five years before she collapsed Feb. 25, 1990, for reasons that have never been definitively determined. She died March 31, 2005.

"I get up every morning and I say, `Good morning, honey, it's Mommy. ... I hope you have a wonderful day,'" Mary Schindler said.

For the anniversary of Terri's death, the Schindlers planned a private Mass for their daughter; Michael Schiavo, who remarried in January, was visiting her grave site alone - something he said he does "two to three times a month."

The Schindlers allege in their book that Michael Schiavo was prone to fits of violent anger, a factor they suggest could have contributed to their daughter's collapse.

"I will never forgive them, not after the accusations they've made," said Michael Schiavo, who discloses in the book that he and his wife were trying to conceive.

The feeling is mutual.

"I don't know that I could ever forgive," Robert Schindler writes in his family's book. "I also pray that one day I'll be able to. But I have too much anger at what's happened."

His rage is directed at Michael Schiavo's alleged refusal to provide therapy to his wife after winning a large malpractice award.

Judith Graham writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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