Disabled Woman's Parents Allege Husband in Contempt of Court

July 7, 2008 - 7:04 PM

(CNSNews.com) - The parents of Terri Schindler Schiavo - the Florida woman whose husband has repeatedly asked the courts to remove the tube providing her only source of nutrition and hydration - want the husband charged with contempt of court.

Terri's parents allege that Michael Schiavo has prevented them from receiving information about changes in Terri's health, in violation of a 1996 court order.

Pamela Hennessy, spokeswoman for the Schindler family, said the current battle between Schiavo and the Schindlers began when Terri "experienced a bout of vomiting" on Feb. 16.

"Upon learning of her condition, her parents asked nursing staff and Hospice staff working at Park Place Assisted Living Facility in Clearwater, Florida, what had caused their daughter's illness and what was being done to treat her," Hennessy said. "The Schindlers were told by the staff that they could not divulge any information by orders of Michael Schiavo."

A June 18, 1996 court order issued by the Circuit Court of Pinellas County, Fla., ordered Schiavo to not only provide annual reports to Terri's family about her overall condition, but also to provide the family copies of any reports about her neurological condition.

"Michael Schiavo, as guardian of the person Theresa [Schindler] Schiavo, shall notify in writing any nursing home, which now or in the future provides care or medical services for Theresa Schiavo, that he has no objections to the nursing home discussing Theresa Schiavo's medical condition with Robert Schindler or Mary Schindler (Teri's parents)," the order stated. "In addition, Michael Schiavo agrees to inform Robert Schindler and Mary Schindler as to any significant changes in Theresa Schiavo's medical condition."

The order was issued after Schiavo had refused, for three years, to submit the annual reports as required by the court. In addition, Schiavo had ordered the medical facility where Terri was being held at the time not to discuss her condition with her parents.

Schiavo was also ordered to provide the Schindler family with a discharge summary following Terri's hospitalization in September 2003. Hennessy said Schiavo continues to disobey that order as well.

Terri Schindler Schiavo suffered a brain injury in 1990 under questionable circumstances that left her severely disabled. Her husband, Michael Schiavo, his brother and another brother's wife claim Terri verbally expressed her desire not to be kept alive "artificially" should she ever require life support. Terri's parents and siblings, along with her former co-workers, friends, priests and fellow church members dispute that claim.

While doctors hired by Schiavo, and one court-appointed doctor, say Terri is in a "persistent vegetative state" -- defined by Florida law as "a permanent and irreversible state of unconsciousness in which there is an absence of voluntary or cognitive behavior and an inability to interact purposefully with one's environment" -- numerous other medical professionals have noted that Terri responds to the sound of her mother's voice by smiling, tracks moving objects with her eyes and responds to tickling or jokes with laughter, as seen in this video.

None of those responses, they argue, could come from a person in a persistent vegetative state.

Schiavo and his doctors contend that Terri's injury is the result of a heart attack brought on by a potassium imbalance. Terri's parents contend that the oxygen depravation was the result of an alleged assault and strangulation attempt by Schiavo. They continue their attempts to have him removed as Terri's legal guardian.

George Felos, Schiavo's attorney and so-called "right-to-die" advocate, has denied allegations that Schiavo assaulted his wife in the past or is presently "abusing" her by allegedly denying medical care and therapy. Felos has refused to talk to CNSNews.com about the dispute between the parties, however, since mid-September of 2003.

Schiavo began seeking court permission to remove his wife's feeding tube shortly after receiving a $1.2 million medical malpractice award, $700,000 of which was to be dedicated to Terri's care and rehabilitation. If the feeding tube is removed, doctors predict Terri would die of dehydration within a week to ten days. If she survived longer, they believe starvation would kill her within two weeks.

To view CNSNews.com 's long-term coverage of the Terri Schindler Schiavo case, click here.

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