Husband Bars Disabled Woman's Family from Deathbed Visits

By Jeff Johnson | July 7, 2008 | 8:04 PM EDT

(1st Add: Includes additional comment from Michael Schiavo's attorney, Deborah Bushnell)

( - The husband of a disabled Florida woman, whose feeding tube will be removed Wednesday at her husband's request, has barred her family from visiting her unless he or an "authorized representative" are present to supervise. A spokeswoman for the family said the parents of Terri Schindler Schiavo are saddened but not surprised by the move.

"[E]ffective immediately, the Schindlers and the persons on their visitors list may not visit Terri unless [Schiavo] or his authorized representative is present ," wrote attorney Deborah Bushnell, who represents Michael Schiavo in his capacity as his wife's legal guardian.

"If the Schindlers wish to visit Terri, they should call Hospice Woodside before their visit to assure that [Schiavo] or his representative is at the facility or will be there at the time of their visit," Bushnell continued.

Bushnell told Wednesday afternoon that the Schindlers knew this action would be taken if they released an Aug. 11, 2001 videotape of Terri to the public.

"The restriction on the visitation is not to punish the Schindlers in any way or to keep them from seeing their daughter. That's not the intention at all," Bushnell said. "It's just to enforce compliance with the court orders and to ensure Terri's privacy.

"The Schindlers have shown that they are not complying with the court order and we just don't want any more noncompliance issues. [We're] just trying to address that issue, particularly during this time. This is a private time for Terri, or should be. We're trying to make it as peaceful as possible," Bushnell added.

If the Schindlers wish to visit their daughter before she dies, Bushnell explained that they and any other visitors pre-approved by the court must abide by all of the conditions of a March 24, 2000, court order that, among other things, forbade them from photographing or videotaping Terri. Terri's family is also forbidden to have her examined by any physician without pre-approval from the court. Pamela Hennessy, spokeswoman for the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation, called the move "entirely senseless" and described it as the Schiavo legal team's "last attempt at cruelty."

"Schiavo's attorneys have stated that this was done in order to protect Terri's privacy, but the reality of this particular action is that Terri's going to die by herself," Hennessy told Wednesday morning. "She can't even have her mother at her side, and her mother and father and sister can't even say 'goodbye' to her."

Bushnell's letter asserts that Schiavo "will make every effort to accommodate [the Schindlers'] reasonable visitation requests." Hennessy dismissed the apparent courtesy.

"I don't think he's going to be overly eager to accommodate the family at all," Hennessy said. "He hasn't been in the past."

Hennessy claimed the Schindler family has still not received a discharge summary from Terri's last hospitalization even though Schiavo is allegedly under a court order to provide such information to them.

"So, I've got no reason to believe that he's going to be kind to them now," Hennessy concluded.

Bushnell said Schiavo is attempting to arrange for himself or a representative to be present 24 hours a day.

"Whether he'll accomplish that or not, I don't know, but we should come pretty close," Bushnell said. "So, the Schindlers should be able to visit anytime they want as long as we're able to have coverage and we're attempting to have full coverage."

Terri Schindler Schiavo, who suffered a brain injury under questionable circumstances in 1990, will have her gastrostomy or nutrition and hydration tube removed under court order at 2 p.m. EDT Wednesday unless Florida Gov. Jeb Bush intervenes through the state's Department of Children and Family Services' Adult Protective Services Unit. State law authorizes agency employees to execute an "emergency protective services intervention" if they believe the life of a disabled adult is in danger and that adult's condition prevents them from asking for help. The law contains no exclusions for court orders authorizing so-called "right-to-die" actions.

If Terri's feeding tube is removed, doctors estimate it will take 10 days to two weeks for her to die of dehydration, starvation or both. There is no medical consensus on how much pain she might suffer during that process.

E-mail a news tip to Jeff Johnson.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.