PINELLAS PARK, FL (ABC News) - Terri Schiavo, the woman at the center of a nationwide debate over right-to-die decisions, died today following the March 18 removal of the feeding tube that allowed her to continue living. She was 41 years old.
The Schiavo case, as it came to be known, centered on a dispute between Schiavo's husband, Michael, and her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, over the removal of her feeding tube. Michael Schiavo sought to have the tube removed, but her parents repeatedly fought to continue treatment.
The tube was inserted in 1990 after heart failure caused severe brain damage to Schiavo, leaving her in a persistent vegetative state. PVS is characterized by periods of wakefulness with no apparent awareness or response to any stimulus.
Theresa Marie Schindler was born Dec. 3, 1963, into a Roman Catholic household in the comfortable, middle-class Philadelphia suburb of Huntingdon Valley. The oldest of three children, Terri grew to be a shy, quiet girl who kept a menagerie of stuffed animals in her bedroom.
Though she was heavy as a teenager, Terri lost a significant amount of weight before entering Bucks County Community College in 1981. It was there she met Michael Schiavo, her first boyfriend.
The pair married in 1984 in a wedding with some 300 attendees. Two years later, they moved to St. Petersburg, Fla., and lived in a condominium owned by Terri's parents.
Though the Schiavos' relationship was described by some as agreeable, there were conflicting reports that portrayed the couple as argumentative and unhappy.
There were also unconfirmed reports that Terri continued to struggle with her weight, suffered from an eating disorder and had menstrual problems. The Schiavos had no children.
On Feb. 25, 1990, Schiavo suffered heart failure that might have been the result of a potassium imbalance associated with an eating disorder. She entered PVS shortly thereafter, and her condition remained unchanged until her death.