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Husband once offered to give up $700,000

But parents of a woman in a coma refused to remove her feeding tube in return for the gift to charity.

By ANITA KUMAR

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 27, 2000


Michael Schiavo desperately wanted his comatose wife to die.

So much so that in October 1998 he told her parents he would donate to charity the $700,000 he stood to inherit upon her death, if only they would allow removal of her feeding tube.

Bob and Mary Schindler flat-out rejected the offer.

In court testimony this week, they said they would use any medical treatment necessary to keep their daughter Terri, 36, alive. No matter what.

Schiavo's attorney accuses the Schindlers of disregarding their daughter's wishes. Attorney George Felos says they are trying to keep Mrs. Schiavo alive because it brings them joy, even though she has been comatose for 10 years in what doctors call a "persistent vegetative state."

He described the Schindlers as a financially strapped couple who blame Schiavo for not monitoring his wife's health before she lapsed into a coma from an inexplicable loss of potassium.

Felos said the Schindlers are bitter that Schiavo did not share half of a $300,000 malpractice settlement he received and that he failed to repay them $12,000 for rent and moving expenses.

But Mrs. Schiavo's parents say their son-in-law is after as much as $700,000 in inheritance and that he is eager to marry his fiancee of four years. They say he aggressively pursued treatment for his wife for years after her 1990 accident until the couple received $1-million in the malpractice suit.

"He's having my daughter put to death to get her money. That burns me up," Schindler angrily testified before bursting into tears.

But testimony Wednesday revealed that in October 1998, Schiavo offered to donate the entire $700,000 to charity if the Schindlers agreed to remove their daughter's feeding tube, ensuring she would die in a couple of weeks.

"Unfortunately, the fact that the law makes Mr. Schiavo the recipient of his wife's estate, has been utilized to cast suspicion on his motives," Felos wrote in a letter to the Schindlers'attorney.. "My client has also repeated with frequency that (his wife's) well-being is his only concern."

The Schindlers' attorney, Pamela Campbell, said the offer was not genuine and that Schiavo made it knowing the Schindlers would reject it because they have never wavered from their quest to keep their daughter alive.

Mrs. Schiavo collapsed at her home the morning of Feb. 25, 1990. Her heart stopped beating and she was deprived of oxygen for five minutes. She has not awakened since.

The trial will resume in Pinellas County Circuit Court today, but it could be weeks or months before Judge George Greer decides about the feeding tube. He must first decide whether Mrs. Shiavo, who did not write a living will, would have wanted to prolong her life by artificial means.

Schiavo said his wife told him several times she would not want to be kept on life support. His brother, Scott, and the wife of another brother also said Mrs. Schiavo told them the same thing.

The Schindlers say they don't believe them and wonder why their son-in-law never mentioned those wishes until 1998, after she had spent eight years in a coma.

The Schindlers testified that their daughter never talked to them about whether she would want to be kept on life support.

But, they say, she supported placing her ailing grandmother on a ventilator and commented once while watching the news that someone should be kept alive as long as possible.

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