Michael Schiavo

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Michael Richard Schiavo (born April 3, 1963) was the husband of Terri Schiavo, who became a public figure in a national debate over end-of-life issues. Following his wife's collapse, he led a seven-year but ultimately successful and controversial campaign to remove her feeding tube after she was diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state.

Early life

Schiavo is the youngest of five brothers in an Italian Lutheran home. He attended Bucks County Community College, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. He met Theresa Schindler in a sociology class in 1982. Schiavo proposed five months later and the couple were married on November 10, 1984. They lived in Pennsylvania at the beginning of their marriage, and Michael Schiavo worked as a restaurant manager.

In 1986, the couple relocated to St. Petersburg, Florida because of Terri's job. Michael had several different jobs during this time and was sometimes unemployed.

Terri's collapse

Template:Terri Schiavo On February 25, 1990, Terri collapsed at home. Michael called 9-1-1 and said he was asleep at the time and was awakened by the noise of her fall. Terri had suffered brain damage and would require rehabilitation and constant care.

On June 18, 1990, Schiavo was appointed as his wife's guardian. He and the Schindlers managed her care and organized a fundraiser so that Terri could be flown to California for experimental treatment. The couple returned to Florida and Michael placed Terri in a rehabilitation facility. He later received a nursing degree.

In July 1993, Schiavo placed a standard "do-not-resuscitate" order on Terri's medical chart. In 1993, Schiavo agreed with Dr. Patrick Mulroy not to give Terri antibiotics for a urinary tract infection, which if left untreated could have been fatal. In testimony at a guardianship hearing, Schiavo said that Sabal Palms Health Care Center refused to follow this order because the Center felt it was against the law.

Relationship with Terri's parents

From 1990 to 1993, Michael and the Schindlers enjoyed an amicable relationship. [1] The Schindlers even allowed Michael to live rent-free in their condominium for several months. During this time, the Schindlers actively encouraged Michael to "get on with his life". He was encouraged by the Schindlers to date, and he introduced his in-law family to women he was dating.[2] On June 18, 1990, the court appointed Michael Schiavo as Terri's legal guardian; this appointment was not disputed by the Schindlers at the time.

While their initial relationship was cooperative, a conversation on February 14, 1993, over the malpractice award did much to rupture their relationship. Michael's relationship with Terri's parents deteriorated as he began to consider taking steps to hasten Terri's death.

Malpractice suit

In 1992, Michael, on behalf of his wife and himself, brought a medical malpractice lawsuit against G. Stephen Igel, the obstetrician who had been treating Schiavo for infertility, claiming that his failure to test for an eating disorder had led to her current condition. During the trial, at least one of Schiavo's friends testified that they believed she was bulimic because after meals out, she always immediately excused herself to go to the bathroom.[3] Michael also said that he had noticed some peculiar eating habits (such as drinking about a gallon of iced tea a day, eating a huge omelette or practically all of a pizza on Sundays) but had received no indication that she had any kind of psychological problem or eating disorder.[4] At the conclusion of the trial, the jury found for the Schiavos and awarded Mrs. Schiavo $1,600,000 in damages and Michael $600,000 for loss of consortium. While on appeal, the case was settled (May 1992) for $700,000 and $300,000, respectively.[5] The court placed Mrs. Schiavo's award in a trust fund, which was controlled by a third party and covered her medical and legal expenses.

During the malpractice trial, Michael testified that he began studying nursing at St. Petersburg College around 1991. When asked why, he explained:

Q: Why did you want to learn to be a nurse?
MS: Because I enjoy it and I want to learn more how to take care of Terri.
Q: You're a young man. Your life is ahead of you. When you look up the road, what do you see for yourself?
MS: I see myself hopefully finishing school and taking care of my wife.
Q: Where do you want to take care of your wife?
MS: I want to bring her home.
Q: If you had the resources available to you, if you had the equipment and the people, would you do that?
MS: Yes, I would, in a heartbeat.
Q: How do you feel about being married to Terri now.
MS: I feel wonderful. She's my life and I wouldn't trade her for the world. I believe in my marriage vows.
Q: You believe in your wedding vows, what do you mean by that?
MS: I believe in the vows I took with my wife, through sickness and in health, for richer or poor. I married my wife because I love her and I want to spend the rest of my life with her. I'm going to do that."[6]

Eventually, he became a respiratory therapist and emergency room nurse.

Legal efforts to remove feeding tube

In May of 1998, Michael Schiavo petitioned to discontinue life support for his wife. Ultimately, Michael did not directly make the decision about whether Terri should live or die. He petitioned the court, asking it to act as the Terri's surrogate and determine what she would decide to do if she were able. The court deteremined that Terri would not wish to continue life-prolonging measures. While Michael remained interested and visible in the proceedings, he had conceded control to the court and the Schindlers now faced the decision of the court. Some suggest that he may have been responsible for the fall Terri encountered.[7]

Pressure to cede control

Aside from the publicity the case received, and the extended court proceedings, Michael was pressured to cede his guardianship of Terri in other ways. He received death threats. On March 11, 2005, media tycoon Robert Herring (who believes that stem cell research could have cured Schiavo's condition) offered $1 million (USD) to Michael Schiavo if he agreed to cede his guardianship to his wife's parents. The offer was rejected; George Felos, attorney for Michael Schiavo, added that Michael had rejected other monetary offers, including one of $10 million (USD).

Department of Children and Families (DCF) investigators stated that there were "no indicators" of abuse in any of the cases and concluding that "[t]he preponderance of the evidence shows that Michael Schiavo followed doctors' orders [regarding] Ms. Schiavo's diagnosis of being in a persistent vegetative state and that he provided her with appropriate care."

After many challenges from the Schindlers, "Terri's Law" and its overturning, and yet more challenges, the case began to receive more publicity around the start of 2005. As the last of the Schindlers' legal options ran out, Terri's feeding tube was removed on March 18, 2005 for the third and final time. Congress passed and President Bush signed a bill (known as the Palm Sunday Compromise) that gave federal courts jurisdiction in the case, but federal courts declined to order the reinsertion of the feeding tube. Terri Schiavo died on March 31, 2005.


In December 2005, Michael Schiavo opened TerriPAC, a political action committee "to restore personal freedoms and individual rights." He was a lifelong Republican, but changed his affiliation to Democratic not long after the vote. Schiavo is also a blogger on the high-traffic left-wing political blog, Daily Kos.


On January 23, 2006, Schiavo married his long-term fiancée, Jodi Centonze, whom he met in a dentist's office in 1993, according to Schiavo's book. They have two children, both born prior to their marriage and prior to Terri's death: the first was born in the fall of 2002, and the second was born in the spring of 2004.


  • Terri: The Truth (with Michael Hirsh) (2006) ISBN 0-525-94946-1


  1. Pariente, Barbara, Chief Justice (for The Court). "JEB BUSH, Governor of Florida, et al., vs. MICHAEL SCHIAVO, Guardian of Theresa Schiavo," Case Number: SC04-925, Florida Supreme Court, September 23 2004 link
  3. USA Today "Schiavo case highlights eating disorders" February 26 2005 link
  4. Gerbino, Joanne, Court Reporter. Transcript regarding "BARNETT BANK TRUST COMPANY as Guardian of the Property of THERESA SCHIAVO and MICHAEL SCHIAVO, individually, Plaintiffs, vs. G. STEPHEN IGEL, M.D., Defendant," CASE NO. 92-939-15, Purple Moose Marie Web log, November 5 1992 link
  5. Greer, George W., Circuit Judge. "IN RE: THE GUARDIANSHIP OF THERESA MARIE SCHIAVO, Incapacitated," File No. 90-2908GD-003, Fla. 6th Judicial Circuit, February 11 2000 link
  6. Gerbino, Joanne, Court Reporter. Transcript regarding "BARNETT BANK TRUST COMPANY as Guardian of the Property of THERESA SCHIAVO and MICHAEL SCHIAVO, individually, Plaintiffs, vs. G. STEPHEN IGEL, M.D., Defendant," CASE NO. 92-939-15, Purple Moose Marie Web log, November 5 1992
  7. Abstract Appeal's compilation

See also

External links