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Husband seeks to remove life support before appeal

THE TAMPA TRIBUNE — Tuesday, Mar 13, 2001

David Sommer, of The Tampa Tribune

CLEARWATER – Michael Schiavo tells a judge he does not want to wait any longer before letting Terri Schiavo die, a move her parents vehemently oppose.

Terri Schiavo should be allowed to die now, before the state Supreme Court has time to act on her parents’ request that she be kept alive indefinitely, the woman’s husband said in court papers Monday.

“It’s not fair to Terri. Her wishes have already been granted through two courts,” Michael Schiavo said after his attorney filed a motion to speed up the woman’s death.

“Why should we make her have to suffer any more than she is?” the husband said. “This could be another four or five months until we even hear back from the Supreme Court” on whether it will hear an appeal from Terri’s parents.

Terri Schiavo’s parents see it differently.

Michael Schiavo’s real motive is actually twofold: to inherit his wife’s approximately $700,000 estate and to punish her family for fighting his attempts to remove her feeding tube so she will die, said Robert Schindler, the woman’s father.

“What they are trying to do is harass our family,” Schindler said late Monday. “I think they are trying to make our life miserable, more than what it is” already.

When Michael Schiavo won a total of $1 million for himself and his wife in a medical malpractice lawsuit several years ago, jurors were told Terri Schiavo needed money for many years of medical care, the father said.

At a right-to-die trial last year, Michael Schiavo acknowledged trying to withhold medication when his wife suffered a potentially life-threatening infection, Schindler pointed out.

But two courts have ruled that neither side is after Terri Schiavo’s money. In the most recent ruling, the 2nd District Court of Appeal said the clear issue is what Terri Schiavo would want. It agreed with Pasco-Pinellas Circuit Judge George Greer that there was sufficient evidence the woman did not want to be kept alive artificially after realistic medical hope of recovery was exhausted.

“If anything is undeniable in this case, it is that Theresa would never wish for this money to drive a wedge between the people she loves,” the appeals court wrote.

Terri Schiavo, now 37, has been in a comalike, persistent vegetative state since suffering a heart attack in 1990.

Last year, at a trial over Michael Schiavo’s request that his wife be allowed to die, a doctor hired by his attorney testified that most of her brain is gone and that any moans, laughter or tears she exhibits are reflexive.

Robert and Mary Schindler testified that their daughter reacts to them during weekly visits and that they hope she will one day awaken, as comatose patients have been known to do after years and even decades of illness.

Greer sided with the husband, granting him permission to remove his wife’s feeding tube 30 days after all appeals have been exhausted.

The district court of appeals has twice affirmed Greer’s ruling. To consider the case, the Supreme Court must find that the appeals court ruling conflicts with some previous ruling or that the case is one of great public importance. George Felos, who filed Monday’s motion seeking permission to immediately remove the feeding tube, has said it is unlikely the high court can or will take the case.

Greer is scheduled to consider Monday’s request March 22.