May 19, 2010; Source: Huffington Post | The plight of Terri Schiavo—15 years spent in a vegetative state until her feeding tube was removed in 2005—was enough to break anyone’s heart. No matter how much any of us might have assumed that prolonging her life, such as it was, was not justifiable, it was impossible not to have compassion for her family members who were unable to accept that reality.
Unfortunately, in the wake of her death, the family feud that surrounded her life and death has spread into the nonprofit realm. Remember that Schiavo’s husband, Michael, had asked the courts to have her taken off life support, but Schiavo’s parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, opposed him, claiming that Terri was still conscious. The Schindlers created the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation, dedicated against assisted deaths and euthanasia—and to “establish a Terri Schindler Schiavo Memorial site and erect the memorial sculpture “Compassion.” (Ultimately, the foundation would create some unknown number of “Terri Schindler Schiavo neurological centers to provide care for brain injury victims.”)
How the Foundation would carry out its mission is unclear, except that it would hire staff toward creating an infrastructure to support a regional and national “support network.” The foundation has raised relatively little money, and a good chunk has gone to staff salaries—and the staff include the Schindlers and their son Bobby. The Schindler family took 65 percent of the foundation’s 2008 revenues of $91,568 as salaries and 30 percent of its $161,555 in 2007.
Michael Schiavo claims that he has “intangible rights to his wife’s name,” which he didn’t give the Schindlers permission to use in their foundation fundraising. Over a total of 5 years, it has taken in $372,316—one might guess a significant portion went to family members qua staff. They are tapping whatever reservoir of sympathy the American public might have felt for them.—Rick Cohen