Attorney: Terri's husband cradled her
'It was a very emotional moment for many of us there'
Friday, April 1, 2005 Posted: 3:23 AM EST (0823 GMT)
(CNN) -- Terri Schiavo died a "calm, peaceful and gentle death" around 9 a.m. ET Thursday, cradled by her husband and legal guardian, Michael, said attorney George Felos.
Felos, who is Michael's Schiavo's attorney, told reporters that when his client entered his wife's room at the Woodside Hospice in Pinellas Park, Florida, about 8:45 a.m., "it was apparent that it was the final moments for Mrs. Schiavo."
Also in the room were hospice caregivers; Michael's brother, Brian; and another Schiavo attorney, Deborah Bushnell, said Felos, who was himself there.
Her death came less than 12 hours after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected her parents' last appeal and nearly two weeks after doctors, acting on an order issued by a state circuit court judge, removed her life-sustaining feeding tube. (Full story)
She was 41 and had been incapacitated since 1990 after suffering a heart attack that caused permanent brain damage.
Felos said Michael Schiavo had been staying in a room just down the hall from his wife for the past two weeks, ever since her feeding tube was removed March 18 on an order issued at Schiavo's request by Pasco-Pinellas Circuit Court Judge George Greer.
Felos said it had become apparent Wednesday that she was nearing death, with her heart beating rapidly, her skin mottling and her breathing becoming more difficult.
Even in Terri Schiavo's final moments, there was one last dispute between her husband and other family members. (Family feud continues)
Terri's brother, Bobby Schindler, and his sister, Suzanne Vitadamo, had been in the room visiting their sibling for about an hour and 45 minutes when a hospice administrator notified Michael Schiavo that his wife was in her final stages.
Bobby Schindler got upset when a hospice official asked the siblings to leave the room so that Schiavo's condition could be evaluated.
"There was not a confrontation," said the Rev. Frank Pavone, a Catholic priest and friend of the family who was there. "He was simply emotionally upset as anyone would be. ... He was told on no uncertain terms" they had to leave.
The Schiavo side gave a different version, saying the brother confronted the police officer who was trying to shepherd them out.
"Bobby caused a commotion with the police officer," said Brian Schiavo.
Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, stood by his client's decision to have Terri Schiavo's brother and sister leave the room.
"Mr. Schiavo's overriding concern was Mrs. Schiavo has a right and had a right to die with dignity and die in peace," Felos said. "She had a right to have her last and final moments on this Earth be experienced by a spirit of love and not of acrimony."
He added, "I emphasize it because this death was not for the siblings and not for the spouse and not for the parents. This was for Terri."
Her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, had begged to be with their firstborn while she drew her last breath but police denied their request, said Brother Paul O'Donnell, the Schindlers' spokesman and spiritual adviser.
When they were notified that their daughter had died, the couple hurriedly came to the hospice and stayed in the room where her body lay.
"It's our understanding that the Schindlers spent some time with Terri's body," Felos said. "They were free to spend as much time as they chose with her body. After they left, the hospice workers bathed Terri's body, and Mr. Schiavo and all of us went back in to spend some more time."
Michael Schiavo was not present in the room during their visit.
'Terri, we love you dearly'
At one point about 30 to 40 hospice workers, many of whom had stayed past their shifts, formed a circle around Terri Schiavo's body, Felos said. A hospice chaplain said a prayer, he said.
"It was a very emotional moment for many of us there," Felos said.
Bobby Schindler later told reporters: "Terri, we love you dearly, but we know that God loves you more than we do. We must accept your untimely death as God's will."
Neither he nor his sister mentioned that morning's incident in the hospice room, but they both indirectly criticized their brother-in-law.
"After these recent years of neglect at the hand of those who were supposed to protect and care for her, she is finally at peace with God for eternity," Vitadamo said.
Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers had been locked in a bitter court battle since 1998. The husband contended his wife wouldn't have wanted to be kept alive by artificial means. The parents argued that if she had intense therapy she would significantly recover.