Attorney for Terri Schiavo’s Parents Say Terri Responsive, Not Comatose

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 4, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Attorney for Terri Schiavo’s Parents Calls Terri Responsive, Not Comatose Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 4, 2005

Clearwater, FL ( — One of the new attorneys for Terri Schiavo’s parents had the opportunity to visit the woman who has become the national center of attention in the euthanasia debate.

Barbara Weller describes Terri as alert and interactive and not in the comatose state often attributed to her by the media and her estranged husband.

"When I knew I was going to visit Terri with her parents, I had no idea what to expect," Weller says about her Christmas Eve visit. "I was 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."

When Weller entered the room, Terri was in a lounge chair and not attached to any devices. Though she requires no artificial respiration to help her breathe, Terri relies on a gastric tube to receive food and water.

"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," Weller recounts.

"I would have expected to see someone with a sallow and gray complexion and a sick looking countenance," Weller explained. "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."

While the media and Michael Schiavo, Terri’s estranged husband, give the impression that Terri is engages only in instinctive and uncontrolled responses, Weller said she was "truly surprised" by the kind of interaction Terri displayed.

"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," Weller explained.

As she has been described by others who have visited with her, Weller indicated Terri as glowing when her parents entered the room or interacted with her.

"When she heard their voices, and particularly her mother’s voice, Terri instantly turned her head towards them and smiled," Weller says, adding that Terri often purposefully established eye contact with her family.

Weller said Terri recognized every voice in the room with the exception of the deep voice of fellow Schindler attorney David Gibbs. She said Terri searched the room until she found the man with such a resonating voice.

Along with Gibbs, Weller met with Terri at Woodside Hospice, where Terri lives, and was joined by Terri’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, Terri’s sister and niece.

When Terri’s family said their good-byes to leave, Weller says Terri was visibly upset.

"She almost appeared to be trying to cling to them," Weller said of Terri’s interactions with her mother and sister.

"It was definitely apparent in the short time I was there that her emotions changed — it was apparent when she was happy and enjoying herself, when she was amused, when she was resting from her exertion to communicate, and when she was sad at her guests leaving," Weller said.

"The whole experience was rather moving," Weller says. "I never imagined Terri would be so active, curious, and purposeful."

"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," Weller concluded.

Related web sites:
Weller’s full account of her visit –
Terri’s parents –