In the 1990s and the early 2000s, the case of Terri Schiavo became a matter of national debate when one side claimed that she should be allowed to die in a dignified manner, and the other side claimed that letting her die was murder. Schiavo had been comatose since 1990 after an irreparable brain injury, and after trying everything to get her better, he husband, Michael Schiavo, asked for the court’s permission to have her feeding tube removed, which meant that she would die in the next couple of weeks.
His decision was not received well by Terri’s family who took him to court for it. The case spiraled, and for years, Schiavo was caught in a legal battle with his in-laws. Laura Chinn’s ‘Suncoast‘ also mentions the case, focusing on the story of a girl whose brother, Max, is in a similar state as Terri’s. It’s common knowledge that Schiavo won the case, but what happened to him after that?
Michael Schiavo is a Father of Two
Now in his 60s, Michael Schiavo lives in Clearwater, Florida, with his wife, Jodi Centonze, whom he married in 2006, and with whom he has two children, Olivia and Nicholas. Schiavo met Centonze in 1993, a few years after his first wife, Terri, had collapsed and became bedridden due to her comatose situation.
They’d met at a dentist’s office, and after being good friends for a while, they started dating each other. Schiavo revealed that he had been hesitant, at first, about pursuing a relationship because he was torn between his love for Terri and the possibility of moving on with someone new. He and Centonze broke up a few times because of this. Later, she said she knew what she was walking into when she decided to be with Schiavo and didn’t expect him to simply leave Terri “just to move on to an easier life” with her.
Schiavo proposed to Centonze in 1994, but they didn’t marry until after Terri had passed. In between this, they also had two children. For Schiavo, Centonze and their children were a source of support and comfort, but the public was quick to judge him for being with someone else while his wife was still alive. It was due to this intense media scrutiny that Schiavo and Centonze decided to get married in private at a church in Safety Harbor, a few miles from Tampa. They didn’t want reporters anywhere near them. Reportedly, even the photographer at the wedding had to sign a confidentiality agreement before taking the job.
The family now enjoys a life of privacy and likes to stay away from the media limelight. Considering how turbulent things were for them for a good part of the decade or so, it makes sense that they prefer to be away from all that now. Reportedly, back when the couple was still not married, the FBI had arrested a man in North Carolina who had put up a $250,000 bounty on Michael Schiavo’s head. Even Centonze and their two children were threatened. The couple would receive letters from haters, where they’d talk about how easily kids could disappear.
At one point, Centonze was so concerned about the safety of her children that she pleaded with Schiavo to let go and not fight Terri’s parents anymore. They had a huge fight about it, and when Centonze left the house, Schiavo called his lawyer, telling him about the decision to withdraw from the legal battle. But by then, the whole thing had taken a life of its own, and the lawyer reminded Schiavo that it was bigger than him now and was about “the rest of the people who didn’t want the government telling us how we could die and when we were allowed to decide that we didn’t want further medical treatment. And it was about who has the right to make decisions between a husband and wife.” Centonze returned home the next day, agreeing with Schiavo and their lawyer.
While he was vilified by the world and was labeled all sorts of things, Schiavo says he did everything he could to help Terri get better. He wrote about his experience in ‘Terri: The Truth’ and appeared in an episode of NBC’s ‘Dateline’ to talk about his conviction to do what was best for her. When asked why he didn’t just get a divorce from Terri and move on, he said he couldn’t give up on her and wanted what she would have wanted for herself.
It was Schiavo’s dedication to making sure he was more adept at taking care of his wife that he joined the nursing school at St. Petersburg College, became a nurse, and later worked at the Pinellas County Jail. As for the accusations pinned against him, he has denied all of them. He has noted that no matter what was said against him, the law has been by his side in all this. An independent report in the case called the evidence “incontrovertible” in proving that “he gave his heart and soul to her [Terri’s] treatment and care.”