Life and Death Struggle for Terri Schiavo

This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," February 16, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: A life-or-death battle for Terri Schiavo with possibly just days to spare. Her feeding tube could be removed on Tuesday. Now Terri's supporters are threatening new action against her husband, Michael Schiavo.


RANDALL TERRY, ACTIVIST HELPING TERRI'S FAMILY: The day is past for any of us to pretend that he is a decent man. This guy is a monster. He is not a good person. He has been living with another woman for how many years? He has two children by her. Why doesn't he just divorce Terri, give her to Mom and Dad and go on with his life? We're going to hold pickets at his home. We're going to find out where he works, and we're going to picket him there.


VAN SUSTEREN: George Felos, the lawyer for Terri Schiavo's husband, Michael, joins for us Tampa. Welcome, George.


VAN SUSTEREN: George, do you anticipate that, indeed, there will be pictures at your client's home and work beginning Tuesday?

FELOS: I don't know, Greta. But what's obvious is that there are a number of organizations that are well-funded, that are well-organized, that are trying to undo a court decision. And I think it's important for everyone to realize, for those that respect the Constitution, for those who care about the court system and for those who believe patients have a right to make their own choices, to be vocal, to step up to the plate and to contact your legislators and state representatives and say, No, we don't want Terri's fate being decided by politicians or by outside interest groups.

VAN SUSTEREN: George, is it that beginning Tuesday, there are no more legal impediments, so that the feeding tube can be removed? Why is Tuesday the day everyone's talking about?

FELOS: Well, Greta, the stay that's in place now, which was a stay pending an appeal that has concluded, formally expires when what's called the mandate issues from the appellate court, which is expected on Tuesday. So absent another stay being put in place between now and then, Mr. Schiavo will be authorized on Tuesday to remove his wife's feeding tube, according to her wishes.

VAN SUSTEREN: How is this mechanically done? Does he go in and sign something and say, Remove the feeding tube from my wife? Is that how it's done?

FELOS: Well, this is a procedure that is directed by the guardian, but of course, is carried out by health care providers.

VAN SUSTEREN: But, he's got to give the OK, formally done, in writing? Is that how it is done?

FELOS: Well, no, there's no written authorization required. You have to remember, the court ordered five years ago, Greta, that the guardian, Mr. Schiavo, is authorized to discontinue his wife's artificial feeding. And after five years of legal wrangling, it's time for her wishes not to be force-fed against her will to be carried out.

VAN SUSTEREN: George, many of us have read or heard about over the past couple days Sarah Scantlin, 20 years in some sort of state, certainly not conscious, from a car accident, from being hit by a car. Suddenly, she's talking. Is that different from Terri? How is that different? Is there any sort of possibility that Terri could have sort of the miracle that Sarah Scantlin apparently had, the medical miracle?

FELOS: Yes. I wish it were possible, but it's not. That other patient was in a coma, not in a vegetative condition. That patient had rudimentary interaction and awareness. And as you know, Terri's cerebral cortex was, in essence, destroyed, and that makes her different, that massive structural brain damage, as opposed to the patient you're talking about.

VAN SUSTEREN: What does your client think tonight? I mean, what does he say to you? I mean, he's got people that are going to picket his home likely, his work likely. He's got to make the decision to remove a feeding tube. He's been the subject of litigation. People say, Why don't you just turn her over to her parents, who are willing to care for her? I mean, what's going on with him?

FELOS: Well, of course, being the subject of a well-run national smear campaign is very difficult. I mean, you've heard on this show all the charges leveled against him that the courts have found are just not true. Mr. Schiavo made a resolute promise to his wife, when she said, Honey, please don't keep me alive like this with tubes if something like that happened to me. And despite the threats of protests and picketing, he is resolute to carry out his wife's wishes, and he's not going to be intimidated.

VAN SUSTEREN: One quick question. Is he going to ask that it be removed beginning Tuesday, George?

FELOS: Well, as soon as the mandate is issued and he's legally authorized to do so, he will carry out the court's order. And you have to remember, Greta, it's not discretionary on his part. That is, it's a mandatory injunction, and whether Mr. Schiavo is Terri's guardian or someone else, the guardian would have to remove the feeding tube.

VAN SUSTEREN: My understanding, though, is they'll lift the stay and he can do what he wants. He can either remove it or not remove it, right?

FELOS: No. No. If they lift the stay, he must remove it. That's the command of the court.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Thank you, George.

FELOS: You're welcome, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear the "Terri's law" case, and now Florida governor Jeb Bush is running out of legal options. Here is what he said when the latest ruling came down.


GOV. JEB BUSH, R-FLA.: I will do whatever I can. I'm not going to do more than that because, you know, I have a duty to uphold the law. So we've looked at many options, some of which have had to be discarded because they weren't in my authority. And that authority has been defined now by the courts. So we move on from that.


VAN SUSTEREN: Joining us from Tampa are Terri Schiavo's brother, Bobby Schindler, and the Schindlers' attorney, David Gibbs. Welcome to both of you.

Bobby, do you have any reason to believe that on Tuesday, the feeding tube won't be removed?

BOBBY SCHINDLER, TERRI SCHIAVO'S BROTHER: Well, I think that's a question for Mr. Gibbs to answer. But I would like to speak about Mr. Felos's characterization of Terri. She's not in a PVS. She does interact with her family. She smiles. She laughs. I like to tell the story of the time that I went to her room and she knew that I was a big Bruce Springsteen fan, and I went into the room to tell her that I had finally met him outside of a concert one evening. And as soon as I told her that, Terri had this big smile that came on her face. And there's no doctor in the world that will tell me that she wasn't responding to me and was happy that, you know, I was able to meet someone that she knew that I was a big fan of.

VAN SUSTEREN: How long ago was that, Bobby?

SCHINDLER: Oh, it was just within the last year or so. And we experience this with Terri all the time. She interacts. She is trying to speak to us right now. When we go into the room, she's making noises. But you have to understand she's had no therapy or rehabilitation in 12 years now. And Greta, it's not just my parents and me saying this. We have close to a dozen doctors that are on record that are all saying that what Mr. Felos says is untrue, that she can be helped, she is trying to speak and she can be taught to eat again and she won't even need the feeding tube if Michael and the courts would just permit her to have rehabilitation and therapy. So you can understand why my family's so upset and disturbed and troubled. I think any parent that would have to sit by and watch their child die of starvation, when they know that doctors can help her, it's extremely troubling and concerning.

DAVID GIBBS, SCHINDLER FAMILY ATTORNEY: Greta, I have been in to see Terri...

VAN SUSTEREN: Did you see Terri? Give me a point of reference. When?

GIBBS: Christmas Eve. And attorneys on our staff have been every single week since then. And let me just tell you, Terri is every bit as alive as you or I. She responds. She laughs. She loves her mother. She gets upset when music is turned off. She had not met me before, and she liked my voice and she followed me around the room. And I was absolutely impressed with how alive she is.

And what is shocking in this case is that someone that alive could face a death as awful as is anticipated, that a guardian would be allowed to starve a person to death, allow her to die by dehydration, something that you cannot do to the most heinous of criminals, something that's criminal to do to an animal.

VAN SUSTEREN: David, correct me if I'm wrong, but does this whole dispute hinge on the issue of what Terri wanted? Is that what this is? And of course, you have her husband saying that she would not want to be in this situation, and, of course, the family denying that she said it. Is that what this is all about?

GIBBS: It hinges on two things. What would Terri want, is one part. But No. 2, what condition is Terri in? And I think the court has thoroughly missed the shape that Terri's in. Terri has never been in a courtroom. The judge that has made these rulings has never had the opportunity to look at Terri, to view her. Terri's never had access to a courtroom...

VAN SUSTEREN: Has anyone asked the judge to get off the bench and go down to the hospital or to the nursing home where she is and take a look at it and make a finding?

GIBBS: Yes. And these are some of the pending rulings that are before the court. We are very hopeful that the court is going to take time to look at all of the pending motions, numbers of constitutional and due process violations. We need to remember, Terri is a disabled lady who cannot speak for he herself. And the courts and the lawyers and all involved have the duty to, in a sense, speak for her and make sure her rights are vindicated. We need to realize that we don't want to just rush to judgment because there is no reversing this if there's an error.

VAN SUSTEREN: Bobby, you know, I've met your family. I've covered the story so much, I feel like I've met your brother-in-law. How hard, as we march up to February 22, is this for everybody in your family?

SCHINDLER: Oh, of course, it's concerning, but we're just confident, with the legal issues that before the court right now, that the court will resolve these issues before an order is put to turn — you know, to remove my sister's feeding tube. And we're just confident if Terri can just get a chance to have a doctor come in and give her the rehabilitation and therapy, that, you know, we could show the world that she can be taught to eat again, that she can be — you know, improve significantly. But we're just not given the chance, and that's what is so upsetting, Greta.

GIBBS: Greta, Mr. Felos is not a medical doctor. And one of the things we're going to ask the court before they remove her food and water and starve Terri to death is to have doctors come in and evaluate her. Sarah Scantlin is very encouraging.

VAN SUSTEREN: David, this has been going on 12 years. There have been doctors in and out. I mean, and this has been litigated...

GIBBS: But there have been huge advances in recent years.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I wish you the best of luck, but the clock is unfortunately ticking for you. And I wish you both the best of luck because I realize that February 22, once that date strikes and the tube is removed, it will be irreversible, at that point.

David, thank you for joining us. Bobby, best of luck to you, of course. Thank you for Joining us.

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