When it’s time to pull my plug…

As I read the comments on various friends’ blogs about the Terry Schiavo case, one stood out in particular.  The web being a medium in which speech you find offensive or objectionable should be answered with more speech, I offer the following counterpoint on my friend Cheryl’s take on Michael Schiavo’s behavior from her blog, Pink Thunder.

I’d like to suggest you take twenty minutes of time to read the Schiavo documents on the website, Abstract Appeal (AA).  AA covers Florida’s Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and adopts a
measured and even tone, relying on court decisions for it’s basis of

Cheryl’s essay asserts that the Terry Schiavo case wouldn’t happen in her own African American family because her brothers would simply "beat my husband senseless" with her mother using a cast iron skillet to "finish him off."  This admitted exaggeration aside, there is the theory that this entire decision rests on Michael Schiavo’s assertion that he knows Terry’s wishes and that he’s untrustworthy since five full years after Terry enters her unresponsive state, he decided to start a new relationship.

I am greatly troubled at the idea that Michael Schiavo is being castigated as "morally ambiguous", as she says.  Michael and Terry Schiavo married in 1984 and were married for six years before her cardiac arrest in 1990.  From this point on Michael Schiavo cares for her, in some cases rearranging his life around being able to care for her and find a career near the facility where she is being nursed.  A judge commenting on the care received during this time describes Michael’s care for her as excellent.

Somewhere around 1995, five years after his wife has begun her medical ordeal and become nonresponsive, Michael Schiavo meets and begins a relationship with Jodi Centonze.  (In Cheryl’s essay her name is mispelled "Jodi Centorze").  They have two kids together while Michael continues to care for her.  In 1998, eight years into Terry’s nonresponsive state and three years after he meets Ms. Centonze, he files the first petition to determine whether or not her feeding tube should be removed.

One of the chief conflicts Cheryl points out in this essay is to paint this as a Terri’s parents vs. Michael Schiavo confrontation.  In point of fact the Second District court found that others heard Terry express an opinion about her wishes in such a case: "We note that the guardianship court’s original order expressly relied
upon and found credible the testimony of witnesses other than Mr.
Schiavo or the Schindlers [Terri’s parents]," said the court.

These assertions were tested by a Federal court, and then an appeals court, and in both cases while acknowledging that in such a case a guardian should err on the side of prolonging life, in this case, "the trial court determined that, even applying the ‘clear and
convincing evidence’ standard — the highest burden of proof used in
civil cases — the evidence showed that Terri would not wish to
continue life-prolonging measures."   [Major quote is from Abstract Appeal, minor quote is from the court document.]

Others have argued that Michael Schiavo is interested in inheriting the money.  AA documents at least one, if not two offers of $1mil or more that have been made to Michael Schiavo to turn over care to her parents and simply step away.  In addition the assets Terry Schiavo had (about $700,000 after winning a malpractice suit filed by Michael Schiavo) have now dwindled down to less than $50,000.  Clearly, he’s not doing this for the money.

The concept that Michael Schiavo is a publicity whore is also not believable, as he has turned down several requests for interviews.

The most direct motive Cheryl’s essay suggests is that Terry Schiavo’s continued life in a vegetative state is having a negative impact on his current relationship with Ms. Centonze.  I find this unbelievable, as he could have easily divorced her and petitioned the court to transfer guardianship to her parents, after which this story would have stopped making any news whatsoever and he could have married Ms. Centonze in peace.  If we assume people take the path of least pain, Michael Schiavo’s goal is not to find a way to quietly marry Ms. Centonze.  Clearly he is pursuing some other goal.

I think it’s obvious that the motives of Michael Schiavo are relatively transparent: he thinks he’s executing Terry’s wishes.  Not only does he think so, but two seperate courts have examined the issue as well, including examining statements of others not in a "morally ambiguous" situation, and they agree that Michael appears to be executing Terry’s wishes.

Though I suspect I will catch hell from Cheryl @ Pink Thunder for this, I urge you to take a moment and read the actual background on the case.  Michael Schiavo appears to be pressing the case to executve his vegetative wife’s wishes, despite the fact that it’s bringing scorn upon him and almost certainly impacting any ability for him to have a relationship in the future.  I think that he is probably a far more sympathetic character than Pink Thunder is making him out to be.