LOS ANGELES (BP)–In television interviews on CNN and Fox news networks at the same hour Oct. 27, the father and husband of Terri Schiavo each told a part of their side of the story in the ongoing dispute over the fate of the 39-year-old brain-damaged woman at the center of a national debate.
Bob Schindler, Terri’s father, appearing on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity & Colmes,” said he’s still not satisfied the details surrounding what caused Terri to be in what doctors have termed a “persistent vegetative state” have been fully investigated.
“No one will touch it,” Schindler said, about what caused Terri to collapse in 1990 from a mysterious and previously undetected potassium imbalance which caused her heart to stop beating. “There’s a cap on it. Someone’s blocking it.”
Calling the case “heartwrenching,” the show’s co-host Sean Hannity asked Schiavo’s father to talk about what he thinks happened.
Describing a neck injury and bruised ribs Schiavo may have received at the time of her collapse, Schindler said he believes hospital X-rays taken that night could shed light on the circumstances.
Co-host Alan Colmes repeatedly asked Schindler, who has previously accused Michael Schiavo of abuse and neglect, whether there had been any “foul play” on the night in question.
“She is not in a coma, she did not have a heart attack,” said William Hammesfahr, a neurologist appearing on the show with Schindler.
Michael Schiavo on CNN’s “Larry King Live” said he is simply trying to follow what he believes would be his wife’s wishes — to remove the feeding and hydration tube that delivers her only source of nutrition — to let her die.
“Cancer patients, they stop eating for two to three weeks. Do we force them to eat? No, we don’t. That’s their choice,” he told King. “It’s painless and probably the most natural way to die.”
Schiavo said the Florida legislature’s action Oct. 22 to approve a bill clearing the way for Gov. Jeb Bush to authorize the re-insertion of Terri’s feeding tube, which had been removed Oct. 15 by court order, has “angered” him. His attorney, George Felos, who also appeared on the news show, said he and Schiavo have filed a suit in the Pinellas County Circuit Court to have the law declared unconstitutional.
Alleging Bob Schindler wanted part of a malpractice settlement reached on Terri Schiavo’s behalf, Michael Schiavo told King the two families had a falling out after he informed Schindler he would not have access to any of the settlement.
On Larry King Live, Felos asserted, “Terri got the bulk” of the $1.2 million settlement, and said it was used for “medical expenses.”
Schiavo told King later, “There’s no money. There’s no insurance. There’s probably about $50,000 left in her estate. I will not receive a penny from this.”
What neither Felos nor Schiavo told King was that Felos had already been paid more than $300,000 in attorney fees from Terri Schiavo’s medical fund, according to what Felos told the Chicago Tribune in an Oct. 23 news article.
King did not ask questions about legal fees paid from Terri Schiavo’s medical trust, but did ask Michael Schiavo whether he had a girlfriend.
“Yes, and I am very fortunate,” Schiavo told King. “I am very fortunate to have two women in my life that I love very much.”
Pro-life advocates and others close to the case have said that Michael Schiavo’s relationship with another woman presents a conflict of interest, in that Michael has continued to serve as Terri’s court-appointed legal guardian.
A caller to the show later asked Michael Schiavo whether his child or girlfriend had benefited from Terri Schiavo’s medical fund and whether Terri would approve of the “mental torture” her parents were going through.
“That is their own mental anguish they’re going through,” Schiavo answered.
After the interchange, King asked Schiavo: “You don’t have a child, do you?”
“Yes, I do,” Schiavo answered.
“With your girlfriend?” King probed.
“Yes,” Schiavo said.
“I see,” King stopped short.
Later in the show after King asked Schiavo about his plans for the future, Schiavo insisted he will “continue to take care of Terri.”
“Would you divorce her so you could marry the mother of [your] child?” King asked.
“We have no plans right now to be married. We’re content the way we are,” Schiavo replied.
One caller asked if Michael Schiavo would take a lie detector test to substantiate his testimony that Terri, at 25 years of age, would have told him she wanted to die if ever in her present condition.
“I’ll refrain from that right now,” Schiavo said.
In the interview, Schiavo and Felos referred to the videos that have been distributed by the Schindler family and their supporters as invalid because they show only “snippets” of videos that would otherwise show Terri in a “chronic persistent vegetative state.”
“Could CNN send in cameras and video her for a while?” King asked. “Could we go tomorrow?”
Felos, who has been involved in a number of “right-to-die” cases in Florida, refused, citing Terri’s “right to privacy.”
At least twice during the interview Schiavo said the Schindlers, devout Catholics, have been influenced by right-to-life ideologies and are simply “grasping at straws.”
“They know exactly the position [Terri’s] in,” Schiavo said. “But … now they’re being fed all this information from these right-to-life activists. That’s fueling their little flame.”
King asked Schiavo if he had an opinion about right-to-life issues.
“You have to believe that you have the right to choose your own destiny,” Schiavo said.
Felos said watching someone like Terri Schiavo die “makes people very uncomfortable” because “this is a death-adverse society.”
Responding later to a caller’s question about whether a “Dr. Kervorkian-style” death would be preferable to starvation and dehydration, Schiavo said, “removing somebody’s feeding is very painless. It is a very easy way to die.”
“And it doesn’t bother me at all,” Schiavo said. “I’ve seen it happen. I had to do it with my own parents.”
On what possible motive Terri Schiavo’s parents, the Schindlers, could have for wanting to keep her alive, Michael Schiavo said, “probably just to make my life hell, I guess.”
Interjecting the last word on the subject, Felos told King: “You can’t look into somebody’s heart and know what their motive is. You can just look at their actions. And the fact is that, they’ve said, ‘we don’t believe it’s right to let someone die like this.'”
Another interview by Schindler family attorney Pat Anderson was cut short on Fox’s “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren” because of breaking news about the California wildfires. In the interview Anderson discussed a fight Terri Schiavo told a friend she had with her husband Michael on the night she collapsed.
“There are lots of unanswered questions about this case,” Van Susteren noted. Anderson is scheduled for another appearance with Van Susteren tonight at 10 p.m. Eastern.
Bill Bunkley, legislative consultant for the Florida Baptist Convention, told the Florida Baptist Witness he found it “curious” both Michael Schiavo and George Felos flew to Southern California to be on the Larry King Live show instead of participating in an uplink like most other participants.
“I would like to think that at least a good portion of Americans who watched all of the broadcast would have a realization of the special circumstances surrounding this case,” Bunkley said. “Hopefully they will understand why Gov. Jeb Bush and the Florida legislature felt the need to step in on the side of caution and give Terri an opportunity to have some of these issues further discussed and resolved.”
Joni B. Hannigan is managing editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, online at www.FloridaBaptistWitness.com.