Conflicting reports say Schiavo 'struggling' or 'very peaceful'
Two starkly contrasting descriptions of Terri Schiavo's state emerged on Monday, as her parents and sister insisted the brain-damaged Florida woman was fighting to stay alive and her husband's lawyer maintained she was "very peaceful."
Schiavo's sister, Suzanne Vitadamo, appeared angry as she spoke with reporters outside the Florida hospice where the 41-year-old woman was going through her 11th day without the feeding tube that had sustained her since she slipped into a vegetative state 15 years ago.
- INDEPTH: Persistent vegetative state
"She's weaker but she's still trying to talk," Vitadamo said.
"I will tell you this, the look on her face is, 'Please help me.' ...She's fighting, she's struggling, and does this sound like someone who wants to die? I don't think so."
Earlier in the day, her father, Bob Schindler, said his daughter Terri was beginning to resemble a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp.
"She's very, very, very weak. But she's still showing facial expressions," Schindler said. "... She's failing, but she's still with us."
He also said he was worried that staff at the hospice in Pinellas Park, Fla., would try to speed up her death by giving her an overdose of morphine.
Schiavo calm, 'very peaceful': lawyer
But Michael Schiavo's lawyer, George Felos, dismissed the allegations, saying they weren't borne out when he visited Schiavo for 1Â½ hours that afternoon.
He said Schiavo looked much the same as when he last saw her on Saturday.
"She looked very peaceful, she looked calm, there was music in the room, there were flowers in the room," Felos said at a news conference.
"I'd say the primary difference is Terri's eyes do look more sunken than when I saw her last and her breathing seemed a little on the fast side."
Hospice not giving regular morphine: records
He said hospice records show that Schiavo has been given morphine only twice since she was taken off her feeding tube: one five-milligram dose on March 19 and another dose of the same strength on March 26.
She was given the doses because nurses thought she was in pain, because they saw "light moaning and facial grimacing and tensing of arms," he said. Cancer patients and other people who are in extreme pain are often given doses of between 50 mg and 200 mg, he added to provide context.
"Mrs. Schiavo is not on a morphine drip, she has never been on a morphine drip, that is absolutely false and the dose of morphine in this manner is as small a dose as could be given," Felos said.
Earlier that day, a spokeswoman for the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast also denied that hospice staff were giving Schiavo large doses of morphine.
"We do not hasten death in any way, nor do we prolong life. That is not our role," Louise Cleary said.
Protesters rally outside White House
Police boosted security outside the hospice on Monday to keep out increasingly aggressive protesters.
On Sunday, protests outside the hospice grew so unruly that Schiavo's parents were forced to step outside and urge protesters to calm down.
- FROM MARCH 27, 2005: Schiavo's family urges calm as protests grow unruly
On Monday, other activists headed to Washington and rallied outside the White House gates, calling on Congress to enforce a subpoena issued March 18 that ordered Schiavo to appear before it, a delaying tactic designed to prevent the removal of the feeding tube.
But that may be difficult. The subpoena was quashed by the Florida judge who ordered the tube removed, as Michael Schiavo has argued his wife would have wanted. The U.S. Supreme Court later refused to hear an appeal of the judge's ruling.
Conservative Christian activist Rev. Patrick Mahoney said the fact that Schiavo has survived since the removal of the tube indicates that she wants to appear before the House Government Reform Committee.
"We have to find a way to save her. We have to find a way and that's what we're doing on Capitol Hill today ... I talked to the Schindlers last night. They're excited we're here," said Mahoney.
Protesters also demonstrated outside Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's office, despite his recent protestation that there is nothing more he can do to prolong Schiavo's life.