The L.A. Times runs a story titled (I kid you not) Parents’ Side Has Vilified Husband:
Demonized by his in-laws, antiabortion activists and the religious right, Michael Schiavo has become the target of accusations that he caused her heart attack and collapse with abusive, violent behavior; that he fabricated the story that she wouldn’t want to live this way only after collecting more than $1 million in a malpractice claim; that he has sabotaged her therapy and barred her friends and family from comforting visits; and that he wants her to die so he can marry a woman with whom he has lived for the last few years and fathered two children.
The article relies upon a report from Jay Wolfson, who was appointed as a guardian ad litem in the case. Wolfson concluded that Michael Schiavo “gave his heart and soul to her treatment and care.” Based on this report, the paper concludes that all of the allegations regarding Michael Schiavo’s conflicts of interest in the case are simply manufactured by Schiavo’s opponents:
In these waning days of the conflict over who has the right to make a life-or-death decision for Terri Schiavo, neither medical facts nor judicial rulings have lessened the vitriol from those who have sought to demonize her husband for his contention that she wouldn’t want to live this way.
For some strange reason, the paper never even mentions the report from the first guardian ad litem appointed in the case: Richard L. Pearse Jr. That report is described and quoted from here. Pearse recommended against the removal of the feeding tube, saying that the court should not base such a decision on evidence from Michael Schiavo, who suffered from emotional and financial conflicts of interest. Pearse’s report provides support for much of what the L.A. Times characterizes as the “demonizing” of Michael Schiavo.
The L.A. Times says it is “demonizing” Schiavo to say “that he fabricated the story that she wouldn’t want to live this way only after collecting more than $1 million in a malpractice claim.” I don’t know whether he fabricated the story, but it didn’t come up until after the medical malpractice case, and Pearse makes it clear that Schiavo had a lot to gain.
At the time of Pearse’s report, there was over $700,000 in Terri Schiavo’s trust fund. Pearse wrote:
Mr. Schiavo will realize a substantial and fairly immediate financial gain if his application for withdrawal of life support [tube-supplied food and water] is granted.
. . . .
[H]is credibility is necessarily adversely affected by the obvious financial benefit to him of being the ward’s sole heir at law in the event of her death while still married to him. Her death also permits him to get on with his own life.
The L.A. Times says it is “demonizing” Schiavo to say that he “sabotaged her therapy.” Pearse concluded that Schiavo had begun to deny basic medical treatment to Schiavo in the early 1990s:
After February 1993, Mr. Schiavo’s attitude concerning treatment for the ward [Terri Schiavo] apparently changed. Early in 1994, for example, he refused to consent to treat an infection from which the ward was then suffering and ordered that she not be resuscitated in the event of cardiac arrest. The nursing home where she resided at that time sought to intervene, which ultimately led the ward’s husband to reverse his decision and authorize antibiotic treatment.
The L.A. Times says it is “demonizing” Schiavo to say that he “barred her friends and family from comforting visits.” Pearse concluded that Michael Schiavo had “isolated the ward from her parents.”
The L.A. Times says it is “demonizing” Schiavo to say that “he wants her to die so he can marry a woman with whom he has lived for the last few years and fathered two children.” I don’t know if that is why he wants her to die, but those facts are true. Pearce noted the “two romantic involvements” that Schiavo had engaged in since Terri Schiavo’s collapse. He wrote that Michael Schiavo “wants to get on with his own life.”
(I’ll pass on defending the assertion that Michael Schiavo caused her heart attack. Nat Hentoff wrote a column about it, if you’re interested in the evidence supporting the accusation. But I have never made that argument.)
Based on Michael Schiavo’s emotional and financial conflicts of interest, the first guardian ad litem in this case recommended against removal of the feeding tube. He substantiated many of the basic facts that the paper today characterizes as mere vitriol, vilification, and demonization.
But only one guardian ad litem is quoted in today’s L.A. Times — the one that supports the paper’s editorial position that Schiavo’s feeding tube should be removed.
UPDATE: I have found a link to Pearse’s report itself. It says the civil judgment was paid in early 1993 — exactly when Schiavo’s attitude towards her medical treatment changed. This is strong evidence that he is not being “demonized” when people say that he changed his mind about her wishes when the dough hit his bank account.