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Background on the Schiavo case

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Sadly, the Terri Schiavo case is not the first of its kind.

Michael Schiavo remembers happier times with his wife.

Passions are running high in the Terri Schiavo case.
Terri Schiavo

What caused Terri Schiavo's condition?

On February 25, 1990, Terri Schiavo collapsed at her Florida home from what doctors said was a potassium imbalance. After she collapsed, her brain did not receive oxygen for about five minutes.

The oxygen deprivation caused severe brain damage. Schiavo's husband, Michael, has said his wife was bulimic, and the binging and purging of that eating disorder could have caused the potassium imbalance.

In what condition is Terri Schiavo?

Doctors that Michael Schiavo hired have said she is in a persistent vegetative state. That does not mean she is brain dead. People in a persistent vegetative state cannot think, speak or respond to commands and are not aware of their surroundings. They may have noncognitive functions and breathing and circulation may remain relatively intact. Terry Schiavo breathes on her own and blinks.

Doctors that Terri's parents, Mary and Robert Schindler, hired have said she is not in a vegetative state and has the capacity to improve with therapy. She has not received physical therapy for more than a decade. Her parents contend that when she received therapeutic care, she uttered a few one-syllable words. Until March 18, Terri received nourishment and hydration through a tube that placed the nutrients directly in her stomach.

What is Terri's mental capacity?

David Gibbs, an attorney for the Schindlers, said Terri has the mental capacity of a 6-month-old. George Felos, Michael Schiavo's attorney, has said she lacks all mental capacity and spinal fluid occupies the space where her cerebral cortex was.

What is the settlement to which her parents and husband refer?

In 1992, a Florida jury awarded Michael Schiavo $300,000 for loss of consortium as part of the medical malpractice suit he filed. The jurors also awarded $700,000 to Terri Schiavo.

Where is Terri's money, how much remains and who controls it?

The $700,000 for Terri Schiavo went into a trust over which her husband has sole control. Felos said his client used the money for Terri's medical care and his legal expenses, and that the money ran out about three years ago.

Why does her husband get to decide Terri Schiavo's fate instead of her parents?

Florida law specifies that the spouse of an incapacitated adult is that person's guardian. In 1993, the Schindlers petitioned the court to remove their son-in-law as Terri's guardian. They lost.

Why have the Schindlers said Michael Schiavo should not be their daughter's guardian?

They believe that there is a conflict of interest because Michael Schiavo lives with his girlfriend and has two children with her. They have contended that he cannot uphold the best interest of his wife while living in what they describe as an adulterous relationship. Michael Schiavo has said he is removing his wife's feeding tube as part of keeping his promise to her that he would not allow artificial means to preserve her life. He has stated that his new family does not affect his feelings for his wife because he can love more than one person.

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