Terri’s situation can be confusing. Because of misreporting and inaccuracies, it is easy to lose sight of the real issues surrounding her case.
We’ve compiled what we believe to be important items that are not always clear to the general public, but that deserve understanding.
Most Common Questions and Answers
If Terri hasn’t recovered after all these years of therapy, why not let go?
Terri hasn’t had meaningful therapy since 1991, but many credible physicians say she can benefit from it.
Why can’t Terri just divorce?
Terri’s husband/guardian speaks for her. She cannot divorce without his permission
Does Terri have an advanced directive or any wishes about her healthcare?
Terri never signed any directive or living will and there is no evidence that she foresaw her present situation.
Why do Terri’s family fight to keep her alive? Shouldn’t they let her husband decide?
Terri’s husband has started another family and probably has gone on with his life. Terri’s family want to provide her therapy and a safe home.
Is Terri receiving life support?
Not in the traditional sense. Terri only receives food and fluids via a simple tube.
Isn’t removing her tube a natural and dignified way to die?
No. Dehydration and starvation cause horrific effects and are anything but peaceful. Read more here.
Most common misconceptions about Terri’s situation
MYTH: Terri is PVS (Persistent vegetative state)
FACT: The definition of PVS in Florida Statue 765.101: Persistent vegetative state means a permanent and irreversible condition of unconsciousness in which there is:
(a) The absence of voluntary action or cognitive behavior of ANY kind.
(b) An inability to communicate or interact purposefully with the environment.
Terri’s behavior does not meet the medical or statutory definition of persistent vegetative state. Terri responds to stimuli, tries to communicate verbally, follows limited commands, laughs or cries in interaction with loved ones, physically distances herself from irritating or painful stimulation and watches loved ones as they move around her. None of these behaviors are simple reflexes and are, instead, voluntary and cognitive. Though Terri has limitations, she does interact purposefully with her environment.
MYTH: Terri does not need rehabilitation
FACT: Florida Statute 744.3215 Rights of persons determined incapacitated:
(1) A person who has been determined to be incapacitated retains the right
(i) To receive necessary services and rehabilitation.
This is a retained right that a guardian cannot take away. Additionally, it does not make exception for PVS patients. Terri has illegally been denied rehabilitation – as many nurses have sworn in affidavits.
MYTH: Removal of food was both legal and court-ordered.
FACT: The courts had only allowed removal of Terri’s feeding tube, not regular food and water. Terri’s husband illegally ordered this. The law only allows the removal of “life-prolonging procedures,” not regular food and water:
Florida Statute 765.309 Mercy killing or euthanasia not authorized; suicide distinguished. Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to condone, authorize, or approve mercy killing or euthanasia, or to permit any affirmative or deliberate act or omission to end life other than to permit the natural process of dying.
MYTH: Many doctors have said that there is no hope for her.
FACT: Dr. Victor Gambone testified that he visits Terri 3 times a year. His visits last for approximately 10 minutes. He also testified, after viewing the court videotapes at Terri’s recent trial, that he was surprised to see Terri’s level of awareness. This doctor is part of a team hand-picked by her husband, Michael Schiavo, shortly before he filed to have Terri’s feeding removed. Contrary to Schiavo’s team, 14 independent medical professionals (6 of them neurologists) have given either statements or testimony that Terri is NOT in a Persistent Vegetative State. Additionally, there has never been any medical dispute of Terri’s ability to swallow. Even with this compelling evidence, Terri’s husband, Michael Schiavo, has denied any form of therapy for her for over 10 years.
Dr. Melvin Greer, appointed by Schiavo, testified that a doctor need not examine a patient to know the appropriate medical treatment. He spent approximately 45 minutes with Terri. Dr. Peter Bambakidis, appointed by Judge Greer, spent approximately 30 minutes with Terri. Dr. Ronald Cranford, also appointed by Schiavo and who has publicly labeled himself “Dr. Death”, spent less than 45 minutes examining and interacting with Terri.
MYTH: This is just a family battle over money.
FACT: In 1992, Terri was awarded nearly one million dollars by a malpractice jury and an out-of-court malpractice settlement which was designated for future medical expenses. Of these funds, less than $50,000 remains today. The financial records revealing how Terri’s medical fund money is managed are SEALED from inspection. Court records, however, show that Judge Greer has approved the spending down of Terri’s medical fund on Schiavo’s attorney’s fees – though it was expressly awarded to Terri for her medical care. Schiavo’s primary attorney, George Felos, has received upwards of $400,000 dollars since Schiavo hired him. This same attorney, at the expense of Terri’s medical fund, publicly likened Terri to a “houseplant” and has used Terri’s case on national television to promote his newly published book.
MYTH: Michael Schiavo volunteered to donate the balance of the inheritance to charity.
FACT: In October, 1998, Schiavo’s attorney proposed that, if Terri’s parents would agree to her death by starvation, Schiavo would donate his inheritance to charity. The proposal came after a court-appointed Guardian Ad Litem cited Schiavo’s conflict of interest since he stood to inherit the balance of Terri’s medical fund upon her death. This one and only offer stated “if the proposal is not fully accepted within 10 days, it shall automatically be withdrawn”. Naturally, Terri’s parents immediately rejected the offer.
MYTH: Terri’s Medical Trust fund has been used to care for her.
FACT: The following expenditures have been paid directly from Terri’s Medical Trust fund, with the approval of Judge George Greer:
Summary of expenses paid from Terri’s 1.2 Million Dollar medical trust fund (jury awarded 1992)
NOTE: In his November 1993 Petition Schiavo alleges the 1993 guardianship asset balance as $761,507.50
|Atty Gwyneth Stanley||$10,668.05|
|Atty Deborah Bushnell||$65,607.00|
|Atty Steve Nilson||$7,404.95|
|Atty Richard Pearse (GAL)||$4,511.95|
|Atty George Felos||$397,249.99|
|1st Union/South Trust Bank||$55,459.85|