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Schiavo transferred to hospice

The parents of the woman, who is in a persistent vegetative state, protest her husband's decision to move her from a nursing home.

By ANITA KUMAR

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 18, 2000


Terri Schiavo, whose right-to-die case has generated nationwide publicity, has been moved to a hospice in Pinellas Park that caters to people who are expected to die within months.

Mrs. Schiavo was transferred last week from Palm Garden nursing home in Largo to a home run by Hospice of the Florida Suncoast. Her husband and parents, who have been feuding about whether to keep her alive with a feeding tube, now are battling over the differences in care at nursing homes versus hospices.

Just last month, Michael Schiavo went into court to fight to keep his brain-damaged wife at the nursing home that had cared for her six years but threatened to evict her because of publicity surrounding the case.

Schiavo decided to move his wife because Hospice House Woodside provides grief counseling, a service Schiavo hopes he and his wife's family will use, said Deborah Bushnell, Schiavo's attorney. Also, the nursing home staff continued to be uncomfortable with the notoriety and Schiavo believes Woodside has better security, she said.

Terri Schiavo's family, the Schindlers, said they don't believe those explanations and are worried that Mrs. Schiavo will not get necessary treatment at a facility that advertises its care is focused "on comfort rather than cure."

In February, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge George Greer granted Schiavo permission to remove his wife's feeding tube, but not until 30 days after all of the Schindlers' appeals have been exhausted. Mrs. Schiavo, 36, is in a persistent vegetative state.

The family believes Michael Schiavo will refuse to allow treatment of an illness, such as infection, which could cause her death. Schiavo has refused, at least initially, to provide his wife with treatment for two prior infections at previous nursing homes, they say.

Hospice officials said Monday that they abide by whatever treatment the guardian, or in this case Michael Schiavo, asks for -- even if that treatment is opposed by a doctor.

But Bushnell said Schiavo has not decided whether to withhold treatment, and would decide on his wife's care on a case-by-case basis. She also said Schiavo would tell the Schindlers -- who do not have access to medical information -- before he decided to withhold treatment.

The Schindlers' attorney, Joseph Magri, said Monday he plans to ask the judge to consider new developments in Mrs. Schiavo's case. "We will attempt to do something, that's for sure," he said.

At Woodside, unlike nursing homes, the length of stays are generally much shorter and a patient's "life expectancy is months, rather than years," said Mike Bell, the hospice's vice president of development and community relations.

Mrs. Schiavo collapsed at her St. Petersburg home Feb. 25, 1990. Her heart stopped beating, and she was deprived of oxygen for five minutes. She has been in a vegetative state since.

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