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The Guardian

In 1998, Terri Schiavo's first guardian ad litem filed a report on her case. It makes for interesting reading today.

6:40 AM, Nov 4, 2003 • By WESLEY J. SMITH
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*Schiavo admitted to the guardian ad litem that he had at least "two romantic involvements" after Terri's collapse. "It is apparent to me," Pearse wrote the court, "that he has reached a point that he has no hope of the ward's recovery and wants to get on with his own life." (To say the least. At the time of Pearse's investigation, Schiavo was already living with the woman who would become the mother of his children.)

*Contrary to Schiavo's allegation on Larry King last week that the Schindlers "really basically didn't have any care with Terri," Pearse painted a vivid picture of parents worried deeply about the quality of care their daughter was receiving and profoundly committed to remaining involved in her life:

From the time of the ward's accident, the ward's parents have been vitally interested in her welfare . . . After the falling out between the ward's parents and her husband, Mr. and Mrs. Schindler pursued removal litigation in an effort to have Mr. Schiavo removed as their daughter's guardian and to have themselves appointed guardians of her person . . . They have also pursued litigation against him to gain access to medical and financial information concerning the ward which was withheld by the ward's husband, with only partial success. They express extreme frustration with the current situation in which they have virtually no input into the decision making process concerning their own daughter. The ward's parents visit her regularly but at times when they won't have to confront Mr. Schiavo.

Moreover, rather than the Schindlers not being interested in seeing Terri, as was asserted on Larry King, Pearse noted that it was Schiavo who "has isolated the ward from her parents."

*As of April 4, 1998, Terri's trust fund held $713,828.85. "Thus," wrote Pearse, "Mr. Schiavo will realize a substantial and fairly immediate financial gain if his application for withdrawal of life support [tube-supplied food and water] is granted." (Schiavo now claims that there is only $50,000 left in the account, the bulk of the money having gone to pay his attorneys.)

*At the time of the report, only Schiavo claimed that Terri would not wish to be kept alive if severely incapacitated. "However," Pearse opined, "his credibility is necessarily adversely affected by the obvious financial benefit to him of being the ward's sole heir at law in the event of her death while still married to him. Her death also permits him to get on with his own life." (Subsequent to the filing of the report, and perhaps in response to it, Schiavo's brother and sister-in-law came forward to claim Terri made similar statements in their presence. In this regard it is worth noting that no member of Terri's family, or any of her friends, recall her ever making any such statements to them.)

*Pearse concluded, "Given the inherent problems already mentioned, together with the fact that the ward has been maintained the life support measures sought to be withdrawn for the past 8 years, it is the recommendation of the guardian ad litem that the petition for removal be denied."

UNFORTUNATELY, Pearse's opinion held scant sway with the court. After filing his report, he requested further court instructions to authorize him to continue to represent Terri as guardian ad litem. Schiavo's attorney, George Felos objected, and attempted to have Pearse removed for bias. This attempt failed but after his report was received, Pearse was discharged from participating any further in the case. And despite Schiavo's continuing conflicts of interest--which only deepened on the personal level as he sired children--no other guardian ad litem was ever appointed to represent Terri during the years of litigation, proceedings that culminated in an October 15, 2003 court order requiring Terri Schiavo to be deprived of all water and food toward the end that she dehydrate to death.

Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and an attorney for the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide. His current book is the updated and revised "Forced Exit: The Slippery Slope from Assisted Suicide to Legalized Murder."