George Felos at press conference this afternoon (Photo: BayNews9.com).
At a news conference after Terri Schiavo’s death today, the noted “right-to-die” attorney for her estranged husband spoke repeatedly of the severely brain-injured woman’s “death process” by starvation and dehydration, describing it as “calm, peaceful and gentle.”
George Felos – who prevailed through years of litigation to secure a court order removing Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube March 18 – said he was with her for most of the 24 hours before her death today at about 9 a.m. Eastern time.
“It was evident upon first seeing Terri yesterday that she was entering into the final stages of the death process,” Felos said after expressing condolences to Terri’s family – the Schindlers – and husband Michael Schiavo.
The estranged husband has said that upon Terri’s death, he plans to marry his live-in fiance, Jodi Centonze, with whom he has two children.
Felos continued describing Terri’s last hours: “She went through initial periods of rapid breathing … she would go through periods of labored breathing,” he said. “Progressively over the period of time we were there, you could see mottling of her extremities. … That means the heart could not pump to the extremities, and her limbs became progessively colder.
“As time went on,” Felos reiterated, “it became evident Terri was going through the final stages of the death process.”
In sharp contrast to Felos’ description of a “peaceful’ death, a Schindler spokesman, Fr. Frank Pavone, who was in the room until about 10 or 15 minutes before Terri died, said she “was obviously in deep distress and suffering.”
A reporter asked Felos how he could describe Terri’s passing as a “death with dignity” when she was “starved to death.”
“I’m sure you know that’s an inaccurate question,” Felos retorted. “Patients don’t starve to death by removal of artificial nutrition and hydration … .”
As WorldNetDaily reported, Terri’s brother Bobby Schindler characterized Felos as having “some infatuation with death” after hearing the attorney describe his sister last Saturday as looking “beautiful” as she lay dying.
Virtually all other eyewitnesses described her as “gaunt,” “drawn,” “struggling” and “fighting like hell” for life.
One explanation for Felos’ comments is suggested in the attorney’s own 2002 book, “Litigation As Spiritual Practice,” in which the longtime volunteer hospice worker describes a psychic encounter in which he promised a vegetative patient he would “do everything in my power” to bring her life to an end.
Despite saturation press coverage of the Terri Schiavo case, Felos’ New Age spirituality has not emerged as an issue. However, as Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission said to the St. Petersburg Times, the Terri Schiavo case represents a “clash of two very disparate civilizations – the Judeo-Christian civilization, which is based upon the sanctity of human life, and the neopagan, relativist, quality-of-life civilization.”
Added James A. Smith Sr., executive editor of the Florida Baptist Witness: “Both worldviews are in play in the Schiavo debate, and it’s long past time for the public to understand this.”
‘This was for Terri’
At the news confernce today, Felos emphasized that Michael Schiavo had been living in a room at the Woodside Hospice in Pinellas Park, Fla., for the past two weeks in order to be with Terri during her “death process.” The attorney insisted Michael Schiavo only has been acting on his wife’s behalf.
“Mr. Schiavo’s overriding concern here was to provide for Terri a peaceful death with dignity,” Felos said. “This death was not for the siblings and spouse and parents; this was for Terri. She has a right to die peaceably in a loving setting and with dignity.”
At this point, the attorney said, Michael Schiavo is “in grief.”
“He has gone through an excrutiating process of the death of the wife he loves very much,” stated Felos.
John Centonze, the brother of Michael Schiavo’s fiance, served as a spokesman today, saying a friend who phoned Michael soon after news broke of the death reported Michael “couldn’t speak, he was crying.”
Felos said the Schindler’s last-minute legal filings with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court were “in a way, cruel.”
“No family in the U.S. have to go through the death process for a loved one should have the added worrry that courts or politicians would interfere with the death process that a loved one has chosen and almost completed,” he said.
Felos said it was very “disquieting” to hear Pavone “issue venom and make extremely harsh statements about Mr. Schiavo.”
Before television cameras this morning, Pavone charged: “This is not only a death, with all the sadness that brings, this is a killing. We not only grieve for Terri, we grieve that our nation would allow such an atrocity as this, and we pray it will never happen again.”
Felos, noting Pavone is a pro-life activist, said the priest misued his “platform.”
“Instead of words of reconciliation, words of healing or words of compassion, which you might expect from a spiritual person,” he used it to drive his “ideological agenda,” Felos said.
Felos also responded to Pavone’s criticism of Michael Schiavo’s decision to not allow Schindler family members in the room at the time of Terri’s death.
Felos argued a quick decision had to be made because of a report that Terri’s brother, Bobby Schindler, had a confrontation with a police officer in, or near, Terri’s room.
Felos explained he had spent the night with Michael Schiavo and another attorney in Terri’s room and left when Bobby Schindler, sister Suzanne Vitadamo and Pavone came for a visit at 7 a.m.
At about 8:45 a.m., Felos said, a hospice administrator “mentioned we are entering the final process, you had better go to see Terri. Now may be the time.”
The attorney said he was told the family members had been ordered to leave the room because staff need to do an assessment of Terri’s condition.
According to Felos, the administrator said Bobby Schindler wanted to remain in the room and got into a dispute with a law enforcement official.
Felos said this news was “very disconcerting” to Michael Schiavo, and the husband made the decision that it was “not appropriate” under the circumstances to have the Schindlers in the room.
Terri “had a right to have her last and final moments on this Earth be experienced by a spirit of love and not acrimony,” Felos said. “Mr. Schiavo was not going to permit a potentially [disruptive] situation, knowing there was a dispute with law enforcement.”
Felos said Robert and Mary Schindler were not near the hospice at that time. Distraught by her daughter’s worsening condition, Mrs. Schindler had decided not to visit since Easter.
‘He loved Terri deeply’
The attorney said that when Terri died, “her husband was present by her bed, cradling her.”
Afterward, Michael Schiavo left and the Schindlers were “free to spend as much time as they wanted with the body.”
Before Terri’s body was removed, Felos said, about 30 to 40 hospice workers formed a circle around the body.
“It was a very emotional scene,” he said. “Many have cared for Terri for over five years.”
Responding to a reporters question, Felos re-emphasized that “paramount for [Michael] was Terri and her death process.”
Felos said it was evident “to everyone around him, the profound emotion and loss for Mr. Schiavo.”
“It was clear to everyone that he loved Terri deeply, and her passing was a tremendous loss for him,” Felos said.
Saying he wanted to respect Michael Schiavo’s privacy, he added only that Schiavo’s feelings were “expressed in the emotional terms you would expect.”
Felos said that at the time of Terri’s death, she had a “stuffed tabby kitty” under one arm, and there were flowers in the room. Previously “very soft, soothing music” also was playing.
‘Level of acrimony’
Asked why questions of access to Terri’s room were not worked out in advance, Felos pointed to “the level of acrimony hurled at Mr. Schiavo by the Schindlers.”
“He’d been called a murderer and wife abuser,” Felos said. “That is not behavior that leads to reconciliation.”
Felos said it’s his understanding that Michael Schiavo will “not inherit a penny” as a result of Terri’s death, clarifying that he knows of no life insurance policy.
The attorney was asked if he or Michael Schiavo had been approached about “movie deals.”
Pausing, Felos said, “I’ll answer it this way – as early as the first trial, which was in January of 2000, we received on behalf of Mr. Schiavo some inquiries.”
There have been others since then, he added.
“Our response has always been we’re not interested in discussing this; it’s an inappropriate subect and we haven’t discussed or entertained any offers,” Felos stated.
But he added: “As to what may happen in the future, I don’t know.”
Asked about the potential legacy of this case, Felos said he had been too close to it to consider such questions, but offered, “A lot of the opposition had more to do with the fear of death than the sanctity of life.”
Felos said he believes the case has led to “a family dialogue, a national dialogue and perhaps a worldwide dialogue.”
“Death is one of the last taboo subjects in our society,” he said. “One of her legacies may be that we finally have matured as a society and come to grips with this question and start to deal with it in a responsible matter.”
Editor’s note: “Life and Death in America” – a stunning special investigative report that will start with the Terri Schiavo story, but will go on to expose as never before America’s rapidly expanding euthanasia/”right-to-die” movement – will be the focus of an upcoming issue of WND’s acclaimed monthly Whistleblower magazine.
For background on the 15-year saga, read “The whole Terri Schiavo story.”
WorldNetDaily has been reporting on the Terri Schiavo story since 2002 – far longer than most other national news organization – and exposing the many troubling, scandalous, and possibly criminal, aspects of the case that to this day rarely surface in news reports. Read WorldNetDaily’s unparalleled, in-depth coverage of the life-and-death fight over Terri Schiavo, including over 150 original stories and columns.
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.