[Paleopsych] WorldNetDaily: Terri's money used to pay for starvation death

Premise Checker checker at panix.com
Wed Mar 30 19:33:18 UTC 2005

Terri's money used to pay for starvation death
Saturday, March 26, 2005
By Sarah Foster

[Were I to get anywhere close to Terri's condition, I want my wife to 
unplug me, get a new husband (which she would be very easy for her to do), 
pocket the rest of the malpractice money, and get a second life.

[The author of the article seems to only dimly realize that legislators 
are quite aware that individuals are quite prone to follow their perceived 
self-interest that what the legislators would have them to and that 
procedures are built into the justice system that reflect this.]

When a jury awarded Terri Schiavo more than $1 million in a medical
malpractice suit against her two physicians in 1992, it did so believing
the money would be used to pay for the brain-injured woman's long-term
care and rehabilitation.

But instead of the therapy he promised he'd provide for Terri, her
estranged husband, Michael Schiavo, 41, who is also her legal guardian,
used most of the money to pay attorneys to arrange his wife's death; ­and
he did this with full court approval.

The money awarded Terri was placed in a trust fund, and a judge approved
all expenditures ­from pedicures to attorney bills. The latter has
skyrocketed over the years, as Terri's parents, Robert and Mary
Schindler, battled their son-in-law in the Florida courts over their
daughter's right to live.

By June 2001, the trust fund money had dwindled to $350,000. Today, just
$40,000 to $50,000 remains.

Deborah Bushnell, who has represented Michael Schiavo since 1993 in a
series of legal skirmishes with the Schindlers, this month told the
Associated Press she has been paid $80,309 since becoming involved in the
case. "Right to die" advocate and attorney George Felos, who was hired
surreptitiously by Schiavo in 1997 to win court approval for Terri's
death by removing her feeding tube, has been paid $348,434, according to
Bushnell. Informed sources say an additional $50,000 should be added to
that figure.

Four years ago, the St. Petersburg Times reported records showed Felos
was paid more than $200,000 between 1997 and June 2001, while Bushnell
garnered $27,000 between 1993 and June 2001 – which means she has been
paid more than $50,000 in just four years. Schiavo, too, was reimbursed
$6,000 for legal costs.

The fees include not only standard attorney services, such as preparing
briefs and taking depositions, but thousands of dollars for "dealing with
the media," records show. The payoff has been the continuous slanting of
news stories in newspapers and on television of the battle over Terri’s
life, beginning after the trial in 2000.

Both attorneys claim they have not been paid since 2002, but Felos
recently admitted to the St. Petersburg Times that the American Civil
Liberties Union is helping underwrite Schiavo's litigation.

Spending Terri's money in litigation is highly unusual, according to Pat
Anderson, who represented the Schindlers in their fight with Michael
Schiavo from 2001 through most of 2004.

Most guardianships don't prosecute or defend legal actions, Anderson told

"They just go along, uneventfully, and the guardian reports to the court
once a year," she said. "The guardian pays doctor bills, arranges for
medical care, buys baseball game tickets, pays for haircuts and toenail
clippings, nothing controversial."

Anderson said court approval is required to pay attorney fees out of a
guardianship estate, but because generally the fees are modest, a
guardianship attorney, such as Bushnell, only applies once a year.

"Obviously, in order to have a successful guardianship practice, an
attorney must have a lot of guardianships ­ or a major lawsuit," she

Terri's account balance had dropped to about $100,000 by 2002, at which
time a strategy was devised to qualify her for Medicaid, the
federal-state health insurance program for the indigent and disabled.

In situations like this, after assets are sold the remaining money goes
into trust and can only be used for certain specified purposes, Anderson
said. Upon the patient's death any remaining money goes to the
government. In exchange, the government extends Medicaid benefits.

Questionable circumstances

Terri Schiavo suffered major trauma in February 1990 when she collapsed
at age 26 under disputed circumstances in the St. Petersburg, Fla.,
apartment she shared with her husband. Oxygen to her brain was cut off
for about eight minutes, leaving her unable to talk and dependent on a
tube through her abdomen for food and hydration.

Medical reports that surfaced in 2002 strongly indicate Terri was a
victim of beating and strangulation, but at the time of her collapse, her
parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, never considered such a possibility
and agreed to Michael being named as guardian. They did not realize this
would give him total control over all aspects of her life ­-- where she
lived, what medical treatment she received and who could visit her.

Two years after their daughter's collapse, in the hope of getting funding
for her long-term care, the Schindlers endorsed Schiavo bringing a
medical malpractice suit against Terri's two gynecologists for

At the trial in November 1992, Schiavo's lawyers argued that Terri's
collapse was caused by a potassium imbalance, brought on through an
"eating disorder," specifically, bulimia. Though there was never any
evidence she was bulimic, the jury held the doctors responsible for not
diagnosing that condition and awarded $1.4 million to Terri for her care
and rehabilitation and $630,000 to her husband for "loss of spouse."

After the attorneys had taken their cut of nearly 50 percent, Terri was
left with more than $750,000, and Schiavo had $300,000 to spend as he
wished. He used his award money to pay for training to be a nurse,
something he had promised the jury he'd do so he could take care of Terri
personally. He also bought a gold Honda Acura.

A trust fund for the disabled woman was established at a local bank, with
the money invested in blue chip stocks such as Coca-Cola, Walt Disney and
Proctor & Gamble; corporate and U.S. Treasury bonds; and a money market

In April 1993, Terri's money was valued at $776,254. According to a
financial planner, it's been estimated that if the principle had not been
touched, the fund during the mid- to late 1990s would have grown and at
the same time generated an annual income of at least $70,000. This easily
would have paid for her care in the finest nursing home in Florida,
including rehabilitation.

However, under Florida law, if Terri should die, Schiavo as spouse and
guardian stood to inherit her entire trust fund.

No sooner was Terri's money in the bank than Michael Schiavo refused to
begin the long-awaited rehabilitation program. He directed the nursing
home where she lived not to give her antibiotics for various infections
and had a "do not resuscitate" order attached to her chart. He later
testified doctors had advised him that her condition was hopeless and if
she became ill he should "let her die."

As his wife's legal guardian, Schiavo is permitted to use her money, but
only if what he spends it on is in her "best interests." He has said he
is trying to do that by following her wishes not to be kept alive
"artificially" and denies his decision to remove her feeding tube has
anything to do with the fact he is the beneficiary of her estate.

"This suit was brought on her behalf to implement her wishes," said
attorney Felos.

The Schindlers tried to wrest the guardianship from their son-in-law but
were unsuccessful, and the two sides began their battle in the Florida
courts, which in time escalated into what some observers consider the
most important euthanasia litigation in history. It was the first case in
which family members fought each other over whether a patient in a
so-called "persistent vegetative state," but otherwise in good health,
should have a feeding tube removed so he or she would starve to death.

Follow the money

In any litigation, a paper trail is created as the parties file documents
and judges issue orders. A second trail – a money trail – is created by
attorneys when they file itemized fee petitions to the court to recoup
their costs. Fee petitions may include details about phone calls – when
they were made, to whom, what was talked about and how long each call
lasted. They show how much was paid to expert witnesses, how much time
was spent on research, preparing testimony and affidavits, taking
depositions and appearing in court.

The fee petitions also give information about the various schemes and
strategies being devised. Reading a fee petition is like following the
marks an explorer cuts on trees to show the way through a forest.

But after the trial in 2000, Bushnell and Michael Schiavo had the
petitions sealed from the public.

Bushnell charged $165 an hour for the first few years but later raised
that to $185 an hour.

For the first year of guardianship litigation ­from Sept. 21, 1993, to
Sept. 16, 1994, Bushnell billed $5,622 for 35 hours, plus $1.75 for two
faxes – one from attorney Steve Nilson, of an amended deposition; one
from Gyneth Stanley, attorney for the bank which acted as "guardian of
the property of Theresa Marie Schiavo."

The high figure was due to the courtroom battle between Michael Schiavo
and the Schindlers, who were desperately attempting to oust their
son-in-law from his entrenched position as "guardian of the person of
Theresa Marie Schiavo."

Costs included a "telephone conference with Steve Nilson regarding issues
of do not resuscitate and no treatment and timing to raise issues"
($82.50); "Telephone Conference with Mike Schiavo re: do not treat
decision" ($49.50); and "Telephone Conference with Michael Schiavo
regarding problem with nursing home complaining" ($49.50).

While Schiavo could pay Bushnell with money from his wife's trust fund,
the Schindlers had few funds at their disposal, and their attorneys over
the years have worked for low fees or on a pro bono ­basis, providing
services for free.

'Marital debts'

Another cost borne by Terri's estate ­ unrelated to the guardianship
litigation ­ came in late 1994 when Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge
Thomas Pinick allowed Schiavo to take nearly $10,000 from the fund to pay
her "share" of a bank loan they had co-signed the summer before her

According to records obtained by WND, the couple borrowed $11,500, in
June 1989, to pay some "marital debts." But with Terri incapacitated and
not working, Schiavo fell behind on the payments and the debt mushroomed.
A payment plan was negotiated, with a total owed of more than $18,000.

Rather than use his own resources and award money, Schiavo persuaded the
court to reimburse him $3,525 from her trust fund for one-half the
monthly payments healready had made on his wife's share of the note and
to pay the bank $5,772.17 for her half of the final payment due.

Pinick signed the order authorizing payment on Dec. 8, 1994, in time for

A deadly agenda

At first, Schiavo clearly was hoping his wife would become ill and he
could "let her die" as several doctors had advised him. The more deadly
scheme to euthanize her by starvation was in the talking stages by late
1995, ­ three years before it was formalized in the courts in 1998,
according to the fee petitions.

Bushnell contacted Felos by phone Dec. 13, 1995, asking for "assistance
with analysis of life-prolonging procedures statute ... ." They talked
for half an hour, at a cost to Terri's trust fund of $82.50.

In 1996, Bushnell obtained permission from Judge Pinick to seal the
annual financial reports from Terri's parents. She also asked him to deny
the Schindlers copies of the annual reports on Terri's care and
information about her medical condition, but Pinick didn't go that far.
He ruled that the parents were to be notified of any change in Terri's
condition and that treatment would have to be given for any illness for
at least five days.

In February 1997, Bushnell phoned Schiavo "re: associating George Felos
to handle removal of life support issue" at a cost to Terri of $54.

On March 5, 1997, Schiavo signed a contract with Felos "to represent him
in connection with the withdrawal and/or refusal of medical treatment
..." at the rate of $195 an hour, with costs to be "borne by the client."
There was no mention of starving Terri to death by removing her feeding
tube. The agreement was contingent on approval of the Pinellas County
Probate Court.

In fact, the client paid nothing. As usual, all costs would be repaid out
of Terri's trust fund.

In mid-April, Bushnell petitioned the court in Michael Schiavo's name for
permission to employ and pay George Felos "for representation in
connection with the issue of withdrawal and/or refusal of medical
treatment," at the rate of $195 an hour. Evidently everyone associated
with the case except the Schindlers understood that "medical treatment"
included providing food and water through a feeding tube.

With the petition, Bushnell submitted a formal order she had prepared for
Judge Mark Shames to sign, authorizing the hiring of Felos. At this
point, she hit a temporary roadblock: the order signed by Judge Thomas
Pinick a year earlier that Terri's parents were to be notified in case
there was a change in her medical condition. Shames returned Bushnell's
prepared order stamped "NOT SIGNED," with a note handwritten on it that
Terri's parents needed to be told about this.

'Gently and informally'

Bushnell shot back a response, assuring Shames that Schiavo was "aware"
of the "difficult issues" in the case and urging he sign the order even
though the Schindlers hadn't been notified and wouldn't be for a while.

"It is anticipated that the parents will initially be approached gently
and informally by Attorney Felos regarding this issue, that Hospice will
be involved, and that counseling will be provided to the guardian and the
parents to assist with the decision-making process," Bushnell explained.

"... Attorney Felos, the guardian, and I feel that the receipt of a
petition for payment of attorney fees regarding this issue would not be
the best and kindest way for the ward's parents to learn that this issue
is being considered."

No reason was given as to why the local hospice was to be brought into
the picture, but that became obvious in April 2000 when Michael Schiavo
and Felos had Terri removed surreptitiously and without prior court
approval from the nursing home where she'd lived since 1994 and relocated
at the Woodside Hospice, a facility of the Hospice of the Florida
Suncoast, of which Felos had been a board member since 1996, a fact he
did not disclose.

After receiving assurances that the Schindlers would be notified
eventually, Shames signed the order May 14, 1994. Felos waited more than
three months to inform the Schindlers – "kindly and informally" – of
Schiavo's plans.

Word came in a casual letter sent by regular post, and at first Robert
Schindler couldn't believe what he was reading.


Dated Aug. 20, 1997, the letter was from an attorney he had never heard
of, telling them in an offhand way that he had been hired by their
son-in-law to arrange Terri's death. Worse,­ it appeared a court had
approved the idea without so much as a hearing.

"I felt sick at my stomach," Schindler told WND. "I couldn't believe it.
It was like being sucker punched right in the gut. I never, ever thought
Michael would go that far."

"Dear Mr. and Mrs. Schindler," the letter began.

"The court in your daughter's guardianship, ... has authorized the
guardian to employ me in connection with the withdrawal and/or refusal of
medical treatment for your daughter Theresa. I have handled many cases
exploring the appropriateness of terminating life-sustaining medical
treatment and have also worked in the past as a Hospice patient
volunteer. I know first hand how difficult it is making such
determinations. ..."

Nothing definite was decided the Schindlers were told; the writer was
simply "obtaining information" about Terri's treatment and prognosis for
recovery and what her wishes might be if she could "express herself."
They were advised to contact the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast, a
network of hospice facilities based in Largo, Fla., for patients
terminally ill from a disease and beyond hope of recovery.

"Whatever the end point of this process may be," the letter continued,
"you may find it a great benefit talking or meeting with a Hospice
professional. I have been told that Sandy Sunter, with Hospice, is aware
of Theresa's case. I know Sandy to be highly skilled as well as deeply

The letter was signed "George Felos."

Schindler said he wasn't taken in for a minute. It was clear a "final
determination" had been made, with Terri's death as the "end point." When
he recovered from the initial shock, he phoned Felos to see if there
wasn't "a bit of wiggle room." Couldn't something be worked out that
would allow Terri to live? Was Michael Schiavo so determined to see his
wife dead that he would consider no alternative? Felos said matters had
gone too far and there could be no turning back. That was news to

Sandra Sunter, the woman Felos suggested as a contact at the hospice, is
a licensed mental health counselor. Schindler figured he didn't need a
counselor, ­he needed an attorney.

No deep pocket

Unlike Schiavo, Terri's dad didn't have a deep pocket to dip into for
legal fees, but an attorney he knew put him in touch with Pamela
Campbell, a guardianship attorney, who agreed to take the case on a pro
bono basis.

Felos didn't bill for services until after the trial that was held in
January 2000; then he presented a bill for nearly $75,000.

Although Bushnell billed for the initial phone call in 1995, Felos
himself did not charge for advice he might have provided prior to March
5, 1997, when Schiavo actually met with him and they signed a contract.
To cover a few pre-trial costs, Bushnell obtained court approval for an
advance to Felos of $7,500. By the time the trial was completed the sum
total of fees and costs was $81,760.17 for the period from March 5, 1997,
to Jan. 28, 2000.

This included payments to paralegals, researchers and expert witnesses.
Dr. Victor Gambone -- Terri's physician, who certified her as being PVS,
a condition from which he said she could never recover -- received $1,250
as an expert witness while Dr. James Barnhill, a Florida neurologist,
received $4,200 for testifying her brain was gone and had been replaced
with spinal fluid.

Despite later testimony and statements from dozens of other doctors,
including neurologists, the label PVS has stuck, as has the depiction of
Terri not having a brain.

When the $7,500 advance was deducted, the firm of Felos and Felos
received $74,230. Some of the work done by the firm was done by Felos'
wife and law partner, Constance Felos. The couple has since divorced.

And what did Felos do to earn that money?

The initial conference with Schiavo lasted 80 minutes ($260); on Aug. 18,
1997, he reviewed the file and drafted letters to doctors and the
"sucker-punch" letter to the Schindlers ($292.50); talked to Bob
Schindler Aug. 26, after he received the letter ($113.75).

Every minute, every hour the clock was ticking on Terri and the tab was
growing exponentially. The principle of her estate was being depleted
quicker than it could generate revenue. But with the financial report
closed to the parents, the Schindlers had no idea how much was being

After the trial, Felos billed on a more regular basis every few months,
with a particularly large invoice for the two months following the trial,
much of it for "dealing with the media."

During the trial, the Schindlers began to realize this was not going to
be a slam dunk. They had assumed no judge would allow Terri's feeding
tube to be removed.

"The whole thing was ludicrous," said Schindler, recalling his feelings
before the trial. "I actually believed it would be thrown out of court.
Even when the trial started, I thought Greer would just throw it out.
Everything seemed like a grade B or grade C movie, ­ =everything seemed
so weak that they were presenting to the court. I just didn't see how
that could ever happen."

But it did, and on Feb. 11, 2000, Greer signed an eight-page order
directing the removal of Terri's feeding tube.

The Schindlers, stunned, wondered how they could continue the fight
lacking the necessary financial resources. Then, in a sudden groundswell
of support, a small group of dedicated pro-life activists cobbled
together a grassroots campaign. Doctors, too, came forward to testify
that Terri was not PVS, but they spoke too late. The order had been
signed. Lawyers appeared, who agreed to carry the case to the appeals

A computer guru volunteered his services, and at his own expense
developed a website, serving as webmaster until mid-2003, at no cost to
the Schindlers.

Public opinion ran high in favor of the parents and against a husband who
wanted her out of the way. Schiavo may have won in the trial court, but
he was losing in the court of public opinion. Felos began a
counter-campaign of his own, but not for free.

Massaging the media

In June 2000, Felos billed $11,700 for attorney time for the two-month
period from Jan. 28 to March 28, with many of the items essentially
damage-control measures. These include hours spent with Schiavo doing
media interviews, "calls to and from client regarding how to obtain
balanced media coverage, media interviews," "numerous calls to and from
media representatives and interviews," a call from Schiavo regarding
radio talk show and libel issues."

One of the overseers in the county clerk's office, Ms. Story, balked at
approving the invoice because of its many media-related items. Story said
the court wanted to know why the expenditure of attorney time dealing
with the media was of any benefit to Terri.

Felos explained in a letter to Judge Greer that the Schindlers had
initiated a "broad-based media campaign," and it was necessary to
"correct inaccuracies and falsehoods in respondents' media portrayal of
the case." Attacks against Schiavo were "strident," and "he has directly
been called a 'murderer' on television and radio."

Felos said Michael Schiavo did not feel qualified to answer the charges,
and counted on him to present his cause to the media: "A client may be
concerned about misspeaking in front of the media or even, through a
misstatement, making statements which could be construed as an admission
against interest in the case, thus damaging the cause of action of the

Felos was particularly chagrined at a letter of Schindler's, posted on
the website, that included some "extremely inflammatory language, such as
'Terri has been sentenced to death. We do not understand how in a
civilized society, Terri's life was even put on trial.'"

Michael Schiavo, according to Felos, was being "unfairly maligned and
held up to public ridicule," and as guardian should have "the reasonable
right, through counsel, to counter such an attack. Otherwise, persons may
be reluctant to act as guardians, and may be very reluctant to undertake
legal action to enforce the Ward's rights if the guardian concludes that
his or her reputation or livelihood cannot be defended in the

As with every request Felos made during the six years he presided over
the case, Greer agreed and approved the billing, including the charges
for "dealing with the media."

For Schiavo and Felos, it was money well spent. From that time onward,
the mainstream media, ­local and national, ­ have framed the story their
way, particularly the Associated Press, the St. Petersburg Times and the
New York Times.

Terri Schiavo continues to be described as being in a persistent
vegetative state, while dozens of doctors and therapists say otherwise.
The case is characterized as a "right to die" case, while many believe
it's more accurately a "right to live." The reason given for removal of
her feeding tube is "so she can die."

In addition, Michael Schiavo's long-term adulterous relationship with
another woman, with whom he has had two children, is downplayed or
ignored. Also ignored is the once-sizable inheritance he stood to gain
from his legal wife's death. Instead, he is portrayed as a loving husband
desperately trying to carry out Terri's wishes despite her parents, who
stubbornly refuse to "let her go."

Bobby Schindler, one of Terri's two siblings, told WND he is amazed at
the strength and determination of the opposition against his parents and
Terri by the courts, media and government.

"I don’t get it," he said. "An awful lot of people want my sister dead,
and they've spent a lot of money killing her. What I can’t figure out is

More information about the paleopsych mailing list