By Kerry Sanders Correspondent
NBC News
updated 3/23/2005 10:05:32 PM ET 2005-03-24T03:05:32

He's been accused of being a money-grubbing, wife-beating attempted murderer. But before the conflict and all the publicity, Michael Schiavo lived a quiet life with his wife, Terri.

Five years into their marriage, an eating disorder led to a chemical imbalance that caused a sudden heart attack, resulting in her medical condition. Schiavo insists he was — and is — a loving husband.

"I never thought I'd have to prove myself to the world," he says.

Back in 1991, Michael was pushing for his wife's rehabilitation. He even studied nursing to help with her care.

Then Michael sued her doctors and more than $1 million was awarded for medical negligence. After legal fees, $700,000 paid for Terri's medical care and $300,000 went to Michael for the impact on his marriage. Now, 12 years later, reportedly all but $40,000 is gone.

In the years since, Michael Schiavo's made a life with another woman and has fathered two children. Critics — including Terri's Roman Catholic family — charge that's a moral conflict of interest.

"Her husband, Michael, has not been faithful to the marriage, and therefore it's difficult to see how he could be the one that has her best interest at heart," says Father Michael Orsi, a research fellow for law and religion at Ave Maria School of Law in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Not everyone agrees.

"I want people to know he's a loving guy, he's a caring guy," says Michael's older brother, Scott. "He's not an animal. If he had divorced Terri, it would have been, 'he was only into this for the money.'"

Michael Schiavo supporters say, in the end, this is a husband's personal loss as well.

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