Death Metal Godfather Struggles To Fund Lifesaving Surgery

Chuck Schuldiner, the man many credit with founding death metal and grindcore as the vocalist and guitarist for Death, faces an uncertain future as his family fears that the lifesaving medical procedure he so desperately needs will be hung up in financial wrangling.

Schuldiner was diagnosed with pontine giloma, a rare type of brain tumor, last year, and he now stands roughly $70,000 short of affording the experimental surgery that could save his life.

A spokesperson at the New York University Medical Center’s Tisch Hospital told MTV News that the singer is scheduled to undergo the operation on Wednesday, and that the surgery will go on whether a payment plan has been hammered out or not. However, the Schuldiner family remains on edge as they try to find a way to cover the uninsured musician’s mounting medical bills.

The singer’s sister, Beth Schuldiner, told MTV News that Chuck was first diagnosed with the condition (most often seen in children and rarely in adults)
on his birthday last May, and that at the time, the family was told that the tumor was inoperable. Ms. Schuldiner estimates that the family spent some $90,000 on other treatments (including radiation therapy and alternative medicine) over the last year to little avail.

However, Schuldiner and his family found their spirits lifted last week when they first learned of an experimental surgery that could treat his rare condition, and the family managed to assemble a medical team of five specialists in just one week. The procedure is a costly one, but the doctors involved have agreed to waive their fee for the operation.

“Dr. Weiner [head of Schuldiner’s team of surgeons] himself said, ’Don’t worry about me, worry about the hospital,” Ms. Schuldiner related.

The doctor’s words proved prophetic when the hospital that would host the procedure, the NYU Medical Center, told Schuldiner’s family that the operation will still cost between $70,000 and $100,000.

Dr. Weiner has told
the family that Chuck’s life is “in imminent danger,” making Wednesday’s surgery date of vital importance. However, Schuldiner and his family have yet to hammer out a financial deal with the NYU Medical Center, leaving Ms. Schuldiner worried that there actually won’t be an operation.

While Death has released seven albums since its formation in 1983, Schuldiner (like most musicians) was not granted medical insurance by any of the three record labels that the band recorded for. Ms. Schuldiner has put her real estate deals on the back burner in an effort help her brother, meeting with doctors and scraping money together for his treatment. “I told Chuck as a joke, ’You are a full time job,'” Ms. Schuldiner recalled. “Every single dime has been for him, but Chuck would do it for me 1,000 times over.”

Ms. Schuldiner claims that hospital initially insisted that it would not accept an initial payment less than $20,000 and was now willing to accept a $5,000 down payment. Schuldiner
also claims that the hospital also asked her to sign away her brother’s future royalties to help pay the balance. A hospital spokesperson confirmed that the medical center now required a $5,000 initial payment and said they were unaware of any mention of a deal involving royalties.

As the drama unfolded, Schuldiner left New York on Friday to spend the weekend with his mother in Florida, and his sister remained concerned that the hospital would refuse to allow the operation to take place. However, the medical center told MTV News that the surgery will go on as scheduled regardless of the financial issues involved.

“We’re a hospital. That’s what we’re here to do, help people who need it,” a spokesperson said.

Those who want to contact the family in an effort to help should send email to tanzid@freewwweb.com, and those who wish to send money, cards, or other items can write to Schuldiner’s mother, Jane Schuldiner, at 609 E. Citrus St., Altamont Springs, Florida, 32701.

Schuldiner formed Death in his native Florida in 1983 and released the band’s first album, “Scream Bloody Gore,” on Combat Records in 1987. The group released a total of five albums on that label between ’87 and ’93 before jumping to Roadrunner Records for 1995’s “Symbolic.” The band’s most recent effort, “Sound of Perseverance,” was released on Nuclear Blast Records in 1998.