- The Washington Times - Monday, October 13, 2003

The parents of a brain-damaged Florida woman whose husband is poised to remove her feeding tube made a last-ditch effort yesterday to save their daughter from being starved to death.

Terri Schiavo’s parents yesterday offered a deal to their son-in-law, who has prevailed in legal efforts to remove his wife’s feeding tube in a Florida hospice beginning at 2 p.m. tomorrow.

“We will sign any agreement you want, giving you all money related to Terri’s collapse and any insurance money that may be forthcoming,” Mary and Bob Schindler said in a written offer to Michael Schiavo yesterday as their 3-year legal fight appeared to have run its course.

Mrs. Schiavo has been in a vegetative state for 13 years after suffering a heart attack blamed on an electrolyte imbalance during an operation.

The office of Gov. Jeb Bush, Republican, said he has done all he can to help and will not intervene to block the court order.

“Terri has laughed with us, cried with us, talked with us,” her parents said in offering to accept financial and emotional burdens while allowing Mr. Schiavo to keep any remnants of a $750,000 malpractice award the family received in 1993.

“You take the money. We just want our daughter,” they said as they began a vigil at Woodside Hospice in Pinellas Park, Fla., vowing to remain until their daughter dies from lack of food and water or is sent home with them.

Mr. Schiavo does not speak with reporters, but his attorney, George J. Felos of Dunedin, Fla., said money did not influence his client’s decision.

“There used to be some money, but Terri’s debts far outweigh the small amount of money. Her husband will not receive a penny as a result of her death,” Mr. Felos said yesterday.

Asked why Mr. Schiavo was removing the feeding tube now, Mr. Felos said, “Because the Schindler parents have run out of appeals.” He said Mr. Schiavo waited eight years after his wife’s medical mishap to file suit and obtained the right to remove the feeding tube in January 2000.

“The malpractice money was distributed to him to care for her,” said Terri’s sister, Suzanne Carr, in a phone interview from the hospice. “As soon as he got the money, he asked the judge to kill her.” Mrs. Carr helps run a family Web site on their efforts, www.terrisfight.org.

“We just want to feed her. We just want to bring her home. She’s not on a respirator or, as she was portrayed, a vegetable or a houseplant,” said Mrs. Carr, who says Mr. Schiavo has not acted in his wife’s best interest.

However, state Circuit Judge George Greer accepted Mr. Schiavo’s position, made in his capacity as guardian of his 39-year-old wife, that her vegetative state is terminal and that she would want the ordeal ended.

Judge Greer banned any surgery that might allow her to eat normally, an option attorney Mr. Felos said was pointless.

“An injunction that says don’t remove the tube until she can eat on her own is like saying don’t remove the tube until she can walk around the block. It’s never going to happen,” Mr. Felos said.

Mr. Bush intervened for the family last week when they went into federal court to challenge their son-in-law’s claims, but the governor let it be known yesterday he will keep his word to Judge Greer and let the courts have the last word.

“The governor has the highest respect for the independence of our courts, and he will continue to honor that independence,” his press secretary, Alia Faraj, said yesterday.

In a federal court hearing Friday, Mr. Bush told U.S. District Judge Richard Lazzara, “Terri does not have a terminal illness, is not brain dead and is not comatose. It is only lack of food and water that would cause her death.”

Judge Lazzara sympathized with the woman’s parents, and said he was tempted to block the state court order but lacked the jurisdiction.

“Under the law, I must resist that temptation,” Judge Lazzara said, clearing the way for Mr. Schiavo to have the feeding tube removed.

The Schindler family staged their protest in hopes of persuading Mr. Bush to use what they call his “executive authority to intervene,” said Randall Terry, the Operation Rescue founder who helped organize the hospice vigil.

He said Mrs. Schiavo’s case is a right-to-life issue.

“To starve her to death is murder,” Mr. Terry said in a phone interview.

“Any financial interest in any category is something they would willingly give up. The only person who’s in this for the money is Michael,” he said.

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