Comments: Mediating the Aftermath of Terri Schiavo’s Death

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susane , Tampa FL   07/21/05
The impact of the national right-to-life organization on the parents must not be underestimated. It is my understanding that they encouraged the Schindlers: financially and in counseling. In order to further their own goals, they enjoined themselves to this family and drove this event which included offering Terry's husband money to "go away" and leave her in their hands. Now that the issue is "resolved", the group is gone. And the Schindlers are left to deal with their personal feelings and sort out what happened. My personal opinion, based on what I have been told is that Terry's collapse was the result of radical dieting. Whether or not her husband responded timely or appropriately, I do not believe any of us will ever know. However, since they were husband and wife, and if this union as viewed Biblically, then the parents of either side must stay out of the relationship. The Schindlers stated that they knew Terry would have wanted to live. Her husband stated that he knew otherwise and instead of taking the malpractice insurance settlement money and leaving his wife, he spent it on this saga. In the end, could more good have been achieved if the parents had simply closed their ears to the outside voices and allowed the matter to remain private? And further perhaps not spent all this money on lawyers, instead allowing Terry to die with some dignity and use the balance of the money to do something which would have done some good in her memory? Legally, it raised concern that citizens needed a specific living will setting out their specific requests in the event that they should be found in the same situation as Terry. The Governor and other politicians attempted to overstep their authority and create emergency law to achieve their own career goals. That brought up a constiutionality issue. Now that the Terry issue is back page news, so is their interest. It is my understanding that Michael Schiavo has issues with her family's lack of support and interest after Terry's collapse for several years. Further that the Schindlers have issues with Michael regarding his actions or non-actions and handling of this matter involving their daughter. After all that the outside "do gooders" and media have done to these people, I am not confident that they will be receptive any time soon to any reconciliation/resolution of the conflict.

Bill Robinson, San Clemente CA   07/15/05
Calm down Mr. Itzkoff
It was not my intention to get into a spitting contest with Mr. Itzkoff. With all due respect I think his reponse makes my point - its about winning. I am simply an advocate for a new process that avoids that type of attack to gain advantage. Obviously it has to be voluntary for all parties and obviously lawyers will always be involved. But even though the article deals with the aftermath, still, from the beginning, a conciliatory process would probably have worked better, not to change the result for Teri, but to change how the survivors came out of the whole mess. The point of the article was not about Teri Schaivo but about the families. Would anyone like to mediate this?

Norman , new york NY   07/15/05
Here's to you Mr. Robinson
Mr. Robinson is, of course, entitled to his opinion, but I respectfully suggest that his analysis is faulty. There are two separate issues raised by the original article. The first issue involves the carrying out of Terri Schiavo's wishes -- which no one has the legal or moral right to compromise if her wishes could be ascertained. The Court concluded that there was sufficient competent evidence to ascertain Ms. Schiavo's wishes and although it took a heroic effort, her wishes were finally honored. Whether you or anyone else would have acted differently under the circumstances in which Ms. Schiavo found herself, each of us has the right to make such choices for ourselves and everyone else should honor such wishes -- not seek to compromise them through mediation or any other intervention. The second issue raised by the original article was whether the relationship between Michael Schiavo and Ms. Schiavo's birth family should have been subjected to mediation so that after her death they could get along better. If both sides had any desire to have an ongoing relationship after Ms. Schiavo's death, the assistance of a trained mediator or other professional would in all probability be of use to them. However, another equally legitmate school of thought suggests that after Ms. Schiavo died, it was probably better for each side to go its separate way and get on with their respective lives. Either way, the choice is their's and no well meaning mediator should poke his or her nose into a relationship, or lack of relationship, unless invited to do so by the parties. Insofar as litigators are concerned, Mr. Robinson does not seem to be familiar with the fact that approximately 98% of all litigated matters are settled by litigators. I have been a mediator since the 1970s and have been very successful at resolving complex commercial disputes, which is my area of expertise. I have also been a litigation partner in a large law firm and the senior in-house litigation counsel at a multi-billion dollar international corporation. I have seen mediation from the point of view of the mediator, the disputant, and the lawyer representing the disputant. Mediation is a wonderfully effective tool when used appropriately. The art is knowing when and how to use it. Norman Jay Itzkoff

Bill Robinson, San Clemente CA   07/15/05
The comment from Norman Jay Itzkoff illustrates the depth of the problem, whether a family dispute or any other dispute. As a litigator (I presume), Mr. Itzkoff is mired in the adversarial process and therefore there is no room for compromise because the court had made its determination, just as Teri's parents could not compromise because of their deeply held religious beliefs. The adversarial nature of our legal systems is designed to produce a winner and a loser, and Mr. Itzkoff's training is to be a winner. Mediation is an emerging wholesale change to that system that allows both sides to win. That may not appeal to the litigator, but a rational, ever developing culture demands that disputes need to be resolved in ways that cause the least harm and the greatest benefit possible to all parties.

John A.. , Cambridge MA   06/24/05
Keep Hope Alive, Even if Terry Isn't
Dear Jim: Of course I consider mediation a viable alternative for the extended family, inspired by comments in the newspaper about further family fights over attending a memorial service. Fortunately, life is not lived in the newspaper or we all would be at war about 7 hours a day. I think her husband was quoted as saying "The rest of the family is welcome as long as they behave." A tactfully handled intervention at that point might have touched whatever part of the husband prompted him to use the word "welcome" and might have somehow encouraged an opening for other members of the family who must have, at some level, really wanted to attend the service. That's from one of many mediators who offer hope and are sometimes heard. Thanks for the opportunity to comment. Sincerely, John

Juan , Lake Mary FL   06/22/05
Michael Schiavo's 30-70 Minute Gap Exploded Away Regarding 911 Call Seeking Assistance for Terri Schiavo Charts prove a much larger gap in which Michael Schiavo did not seek help and also prove his various testimonies are merely concocted stories made up while under oath,. Michael Schiavo asserts on Terri Schiavo's tombstone that she departed this earth on February 25, 1990 but failed to tell that to the medical malpractice jury when seeking and winning millions of dollars for her care. Charts explode away 30-70 minute gap mentioned by authorities regarding Terri's "collapse" and time Michael Schiavo waited in seeking help and add an additional 2 hour gap. In fact Michael's accounts proven to be no more than stories hiding his complicity in her collapse. See the charts:

Paula , Grundy VA   06/22/05
Schiavo restorative mediation
Thanks Doug for looking at this tragic case from the perspective of the loss both sides experienced apart from the death of Terri. I wonder how her parents feel now that the autopsy supports the rulings of the courts? Are they sorry they put Terri's husband through this additional pain? In what circumstances would they ever feel comfortable making that admission? How would it heal them? And now I read that Florida is engaging in a further investigation of Terri's husband. It seems no one will find peace for some time to come.

Norman , new york NY   06/22/05
The inappropriateness of mediation regarding Ms. Schiavo
Hello. I read with interest your article. I respectfully suggest that while your suggestions may be helpful if the Schindlers and Michael Schiavo had any interest in having a relationship in the future, there has never seemed to be any interest on the part of either side in achieving such a result. Unfortunately, your analysis seems to miss what the dispute was really about. If you accept that the law in Florida allows any individual to decline medical intervention and that if there is a dispute as to what the individual's desires are, it is the Courts that are charged with responsibility to decide that issue, then the relevant dispute regarding Ms. Schiavo was whether she expressed her wishes at a time that she was legally competent to do so? If the judicial system found on the basis of the evidence that she had, there is no compromise to be negotiated. Ms. Schiavo's wishes about her treatment or the lack thereof were what had to be ascertained and the judicial system did so. One can like or not like what Ms. Schiavo decided and/or the manner in which the judicial system ascertains intent in such circumstances, but once there has been a judicial determination as to what Ms. Schiavo's wishes were, there was no lattitude to mediate anything. Again, if the Schindlers and Michael Schiavo desire professional help to reconcile there feelings about each other, that is fine and it may be theraputic for them to seek professional help. However, that was not what the litigation was about and as to the issues litigated there was no basis for compromise whether through mediation or any other intervention. Norman Jay Itzkoff