President Bush Responds to Schiavo Death
"Terri Schiavo has passed and stepped into eternity at 9:05 a.m.," said David Gibbs, lead lawyer for Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler.
Brother Paul O'Donnell, speaking on behalf of Schiavo's parents, said police denied their request to be with Schiavo when she died at the Pinellas Park hospice, but that her parents had access to their daughter's body after her death.
John Centonze, the brother of Michael Schiavo's live-in girlfriend, said Michael was with Terri when she died. Terri Schiavo's siblings, Bobby Schindler and Suzanne Vitadamo, were in the room with her until 10 minutes before she died, Gibbs said.
Advisers to Schiavo's family, however, complained that Michael Schiavo prevented the siblings from entering the room at the time of Terri Schiavo's death. "And so his heartless cruelty continues until this very last moment," said the Rev. Frank Pavone, a Roman Catholic priest, according to the Associated Press.
But Michael Schiavo's lawyer, George Felos, disputed the account, saying Schiavo feared a "potentially explosive" situation after Terri's brother got into an argument with a law-enforcement official.
President Bush extended condolences to Schiavo's family Thursday, and added: "I urge all those who honor Terri Schiavo to continue to work to build a culture of life where all Americans are welcomed and valued and protected."
On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court once again rejected a plea from Schiavo's parents to have Terri's feeding tube reinserted after its removal on March 18, per the wishes of her husband, Michael Schiavo – saying he was acting on behalf of his wife's own desires when it came to quality of life.
It was the sixth time since 2000 that the Supreme Court declined to intervene in the case. Justices did not explain their decision and there was no indication how they voted. Michael Schiavo also had the backing of a series of decisions from state judges.
Terri Schiavo's life-or-death struggle was an issue taken up by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, his brother president George W. Bush and the U.S. Congress, who rushed into action on behalf of Terri's parents who wanted to keep their daughter on life support. The legislators subsequently drew widespread criticism – as well as fervent support – for intervening in what was seen as a highly personal matter.
Since 1998, when Michael Schiavo first petitioned a court to have Terri's tube removed, he and his in-laws were locked in an increasingly bitter dispute about whether she should live or die. The failed bid to have the U.S. Supreme Court weigh in on the case was seen as the last hope for the Schindlers to prolong their daughter's life. Previously, a federal appeals court twice refused to order the restoration of the feeding tube, as had the Florida legislature, despite pleas from Terri's parents not to let their daughter die. Gov. Bush, armed with what he called a new diagnosis, tried to save Terri by having her placed into protective custody. A state court injunction blocked the move.
Terri, the eldest of the Schindlers' three children, was born near Philadelphia on Dec. 3, 1963. As an obese teen who weighed 250 lbs. when she was 18, Terri constantly battled against a weight problem, and had managed to shed 100 lbs. by the time she and Michael married in 1984.
A few years later, after having moved with Michael to Florida and while undergoing fertility treatments, she lost an additional 40 lbs. -- and on Feb. 25, 1990, suffered cardiac arrest, which led to severe brain damage caused by a low level of potassium in her system (a condition often associated with bulimia).
Despite the immediate measures of a tracheotomy and Terri's being placed on a ventilator, doctors said she would remain in a "persistent vegetative state."
Michael, who many have vilified for his actions, told CNN's Larry King recently: "I've cried many tears, trust me. She said, 'No tubes for me.' ... I made a promise to Terri. I'm going to stick by her side and I'm going to do this for her."