Surprised lawyer finds Terri Schiavo alert - 1st visit contradicts claims of 'persistent vegetative state'
January 5, 2005
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Despite the widely believed claims of her husband, Terri Schiavo is purposefully interactive, curious and expressive with her parents, according to a surprised lawyer who visited for the first time the brain-damaged Florida woman embroiled in a euthanasia dispute.
Terri responding to her mother in video clip available on terrisfight.org
After a 45-minute visit Christmas Eve, attorney Barbara Weller concluded Schiavo was so alert that she "should have been gathered around the Christmas dinner table enjoying the holiday with her family."
Weller, along with attorney David Gibbs, took over the lead counsel role in September for Terri's parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, who are in a protracted legal battle with her husband, Michael Schiavo, to keep their daughter alive.
Gibbs also was present during the December 24 visit.
Not knowing what to expect, Weller said in a narrative http://www.terrisfight.org/press/BJWnarrative.html posted on the family website she "prepared for the possibility that the Schindlers love their daughter and sister so much that they might imagine behaviors by Terri that aren't actually evident to others."
But she was "very surprised" to find that, "From the moment we entered the room, my impression was that Terri was very purposeful and interactive and she seemed very curious about the presence of obvious strangers in her room."
Noting that Terri was not in bed but dressed and groomed and sitting in a chair without any tubes attached, Weller wrote:
The thing that surprised me the most about Terri as I took my turn to greet her by the side of her chair was how beautiful she is. I would have expected to see someone with a sallow and gray complexion and a sick looking countenance. Instead, I saw a very pretty woman with a peaches and cream complexion and a lovely smile, which she even politely extended to me as I introduced myself to her. I was amazed that someone who had not been outside for so many years and who received such minimal health care could look so beautiful. She appeared to have an inner light radiating from her face. I was truly taken aback by her beauty, particularly under the adverse circumstances in which she has found herself for so many years.
As WorldNetDaily has reported, Terri collapsed in 1990 in the couple's St. Petersburg apartment. For reasons never satisfactorily explained, oxygen to her brain was cut off for several minutes, leaving her unable to talk and dependent on a feeding tube for food and hydration at the age of 26.
In a 2000 trial, Michael Schiavo persuaded Florida probate Judge George Greer that Terri is in a "persistent vegetative state," which in the absence of a written directive, allowed Michael Schiavo to request removal of her feeding tube.
In November, however, Greer ruled the tube cannot be removed until the Schindlers have exhausted all avenues in their quest for a new trial to determine whether or not their daughter would want to be starved to death.
Michael Schiavo insists he simply is carrying out his wife's wishes, but Terri's parents contend Terri is alert, has a strong will to live and could be significantly rehabilitated with aggressive therapy. More than a dozen physicians, therapists and speech pathologists have stepped forward to state agreement with the Schindlers.
The parents also assert Michael Schiavo's interests are conflicted, since he has lived with another woman for at least nine years -- with whom he has had two children.
Weller said that during the visit December 24, "Terri's parents, sister and niece went immediately to greet Terri when we entered the room and stood in turn directly beside her head, stroking her face, kissing her and talking quietly with her.
"When she heard their voices, and particularly her mother's voice, Terri instantly turned her head towards them and smiled," Weller continued. "Terri established eye contact with her family, particularly with her mother, who spent the most time with her during our visit."
Weller said the "whole experience was rather moving."
"Terri definitely has a personality," she said. "Her whole demeanor definitely changes when her mother speaks with her. She lights up and appears to be delighted at the interaction. She has an entirely different reaction to her father who jokes with her and has several standing jokes that he uses when he enters and exits her presence."
Weller said she "never imagined Terri would be so active, curious, and purposeful."
"She watched people intently, obviously was attempting to communicate with each one in various ways and with various facial expressions and sounds," she said. "She was definitely not in a coma, not even close. This visit certainly shed more light for me on why the Schindlers are fighting so hard to protect her, to get her medical care and rehabilitative assistance, and to spend all they have to protect her life."
Court documents and other information are posted on the Schindler family website.
Links to all "Terri briefs" regarding the governor's defense of Terri's Law are on the Florida Supreme Court website, public information.
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