Death of Terri Schiavo will not end acrimony of husband, parents
PINELLAS PARK, Fla. -- So bitter and vindictive is the family feud over whether Terri Schiavo lives or dies that her husband and parents couldn't even agree on what priest should administer last rites or what should happen to her body after death.
Once embraced by them, Michael Schiavo hasn't spoken to his in-laws, Bob and Mary Schindler, since 1993.
The Schindlers have fought his effort to remove his brain-damaged wife's feeding tube so she can die, painting him as an abusive monster who wants her out of the way so he can inherit her money and marry his longtime girlfriend. They've tried for more than a decade to have him removed as Terri's guardian.
Michael Schiavo says the Schindlers hold a grudge because he refused to share a $1 million medical malpractice award in his wife's case, and says they lie when they insist their daughter is not in a persistent vegetative state as court-ordered doctors have determined.
Add years of vitriol from attorneys on each side and the hatred has reached the point where a relative began monitoring television last week so the Schindlers wouldn't have to see their son-in-law on national news programs. Visiting schedules at Terri Schiavo's hospice have been worked out so they don't cross paths.
"And these are the same two people that testified in the malpractice case ... he was a wonderful son-in-law and you couldn't ask for any better son-in-law," said Michael Schiavo's brother, Scott Schiavo. "But now he's this, he's that."
Michael Schiavo has restricted who may visit his wife and when they can come.
"I think a lot of the reason Michael is doing this is because of vindictiveness and maybe anger toward my family for whatever reason," said Terri Schiavo's brother, Bobby Schindler. "It doesn't make any sense to me why he's doing this."
Michael Schiavo, who did not respond to repeated requests for an interview, has said his wife made statements that she wouldn't want to be kept alive artificially, and that he is merely fulfilling a promise to her. A judge agreed with him after a trial in 2000 that it would be her wish to die.
The Schindlers had asked Circuit Judge George Greer to allow Terri to be buried in Florida with her body intact, but the judge refused to intervene in Michael Schiavo's plans to have her cremated and interred in their native Pennsylvania.
In a court filing, the Schindlers insisted that Terri would not choose cremation.
"To Mrs. Schiavo and her nuclear family, burial without cremation is a central tenet of the Roman Catholic faith," the motion said. "They are wholly motivated by their religious belief that burial without cremation will comfort Mrs. Schiavo in death."
The family has suggested that an autopsy might confirm their claims that Michael Schiavo abused his wife before her collapse, an accusation he has repeatedly denied. It was not clear whether any autopsy would be performed, and the Pinellas County Medical Examiner's Office did not return calls seeking clarification.
The Schindlers wanted to take photographs and video of their daughter before she died, but Michael Schiavo opposed it and Greer agreed with him. The Schindlers also were unable to persuade Greer to grant their daughter a divorce so she could die with the Schindler surname.
Michael Schiavo agreed to have a priest give last rites to his wife, but when the Schindler family priest, Monsignor Thaddeus Malanowski, went into her room shortly before her feeding tube was removed March 18, he found another priest at her bedside, one who was brought in by the hospice at Michael Schiavo's direction.
Malanowski said the two priests agreed to perform the sacrament together.
Pat Anderson, a former Schindler attorney, has gone to court several times over the years to get the parents access to their daughter after Michael Schiavo restricted their visitation.
"From the Schindlers' side, I would say they are distrustful and completely dismayed at his behavior," Anderson said.
Scott Schiavo said the feeling is mutual. He said the Schindlers made an international spectacle of what should have been a private family matter.
"Mike never wanted to put Terri out there like a clown in a circus," he said. "Her parents have desecrated her memory and any type of dignity."