Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 4, 2007
Bobby Schindler battled with God as Terri slowly died
Hamstrung by a court's decision, her family watched as her feeding tube was withdrawn
By BILL GLEN
"He (Fr. Pavone) was speaking out internationally saying it was barbaric to see Terri die this way,"
- Bobby Schindler
"Terri was very much alive. When we walked into her room, her eyes would light up and she would immediately try to communicate with us - particularly my mother," he said. "She reacted to stories we told her. It's unfortunate we were unable to provide the love and care that she deserved."
In 1992, Schiavo began a medical malpractice suit against Terri's doctors, claiming that she may have suffered from an eating disorder, which they failed to detect. At trial, the chief of rehabilitation from Bayfront Medical Centre and a second rehabilitation specialist both testified that Terri could expect a normal life span and would require extensive care throughout her life.
The jury awarded US$600,000 for loss of spousal consortium and over US$1.5 million to Terri. Of this, US$780,000 was placed in trust to provide for Terri's future health care and therapeutic needs.
Schindler said that Schiavo controlled the trust fund and actually used the money to pay his legal fees that eventually resulted in her death.
He said Schiavo began to exercise more and more control.
In 1998, the family received a letter from Schiavo's attorney stating he was beginning a process to have Terri's feeding tube removed.
"This was also when we found out about Terri's alleged verbal wishes to Michael that she wouldn't want to live disabled."
In January 2000, the trial to have Terri's feeding tube began. The Schindlers were confident the case would be quickly thrown out.
When they learned a Catholic priest was coming to testify, they were certain he was coming on their behalf. However, he was testifying in favour of Schiavo.
"That's when I became very angry. I blamed God for what was going on with my sister. I stopped going to church. I didn't want anything to do with my Catholicism."
Schindler told the audience of about 150 that he doesn't believe in coincidence and that the events that unfolded were unexplainable, other than by God's grace.
In 2000, Schiavo attempted to limit the people who wanted to visit Terri. The family was required to draw up a visitor's list, and Schiavo had right of refusal.
The night before, Schindler saw a television program with Father Frank Pavone, a prominent pro-life advocate in the United States. Without ever having met the man, Schindler jotted down "Frank Pavone." When the list was submitted, it was approved.
Pavone visited Terri several times, giving the family much encouragement.
A year later, Terri's feeding tube was removed for the first time. The case so far had made little fanfare, Schindler said. The family had hired a new attorney.
The day the tube was removed, Schindler was visiting his sister when a little boy walked up to him and handed him some Padre Pio medals. Schindler didn't know who the saint was. He thanked the boy and put the medals in his pocket.
That afternoon, a reporter called for an interview, but Terri's parents turned him down. Schindler suggested they reconsider because he had been kind and fair in his reporting of the case.
Schindler's father agreed and during the interview, information was brought forward that contradicted Schiavo's testimony regarding his knowledge of Terri's wishes to die if disabled. This set in motion phone calls and Terri's feeding tube was reinserted the next day.
Two days later, Schindler met the new attorney and on a shelf in her new office was a large picture of Padre Pio. The previous tenants had left it behind. The lawyer had no idea who he was.
Interest in her case began to gather steam and pressure was mounting in her favour.
In December 2003, Schindler was still distant from the Church. He watched a televised interview with Jim Caviezal talking about The Passion of the Christ. He said that was the moment his life changed.
"It was Good Friday when I went to church and prayed. I realized I was ignorant for blaming God for what was happening in my life."
Around that time, Pope John Paul II issued his statement on pastoral care, preserving life and intrinsic human dignity. It helped the family to continue their fight for Terri's life, Schindler said. "Clearly, the timing was incredible. It seemed like it was written for Terri's case."
The day Terri's tube was removed for the last time; Schindler said it was "an absolute circus."
"The president was involved. The governor was involved. We were getting statements from the Vatican. And for some reason, Father Pavone was still allowed to visit her, even though he was speaking out internationally saying it was barbaric to see Terri die this way," Schindler said.
"The very day she died, Pope John Paul II was given a feeding tube. I walked out of the room after she died and a reporter told me the news. For Terri and the pope to be joined at that time, I think God was sending a very clear message that what was happening was wrong."
Schindler says he doesn't hate Schiavo as a person, but he hates what was done to his sister.
In fact, he prays for Schiavo and other souls like him.
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