Schiavo Autopsy Shows No Sign of Abuse
By MITCH STACY
The Associated Press
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
LARGO, Fla. -- Terri Schiavo did not suffer any trauma prior to her 1990 collapse and her brain was about half of normal size when she died, according to results released Wednesday of an autopsy conducted on the severely brain-damaged woman.
Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner Jon Thogmartin concluded that there was no evidence of strangulation or other trauma leading to her collapse. He also said she did not appear to have suffered a heart attack.
Autopsy: No Trauma to Schiavo
Provided By: The Associated Press
Last Modified: 6/15/2005 11:29:11 AM
By MITCH STACY
AP) -- Terri Schiavo did not suffer any trauma prior to her 1990 collapse and her brain was about half of normal size when she died, according to results released Wednesday of an autopsy conducted on the severely brain-damaged woman.
Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner Jon Thogmartin concluded that there was no evidence of strangulation or other trauma leading to her collapse. He also said she did not appear to have suffered a heart attack and there was no evidence that she was given harmful drugs or other substances prior to her death.
Autopsy results on the 41-year-old brain damaged woman were made public Wednesday, more than two months after Schiavo's death ended an internationally watched right-to-die battle that engulfed the courts, Congress and the White House and divided the country.
She died from dehydration, he said.
He said she would not have been able to eat or drink if she had been given food by mouth as her parents' requested.
"Removal of her feeding tube would have resulted in her death whether she was fed or hydrated by mouth or not," Thogmartin told reporters.
Thogmartin said that Schiavo's brain was about half of its expected size when she died March 31 in a Pinellas Park hospice, 13 days after her feeding tube was removed.
"The brain weighed 615 grams, roughly half of the expected weight of a human brain. ... This damage was irreversible, and no amount of therapy or treatment would have regenerated the massive loss of neurons."
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
June 15, 2005
Schiavo's Brain Was Severely Deteriorated, Autopsy Says
By TIMOTHY WILLIAMS
An autopsy on Terri Schiavo, the severely brain damaged woman whose death sparked an intense debate over a person's right-to-die, showed that her brain was severely "atrophied," weighed less than half of what it should have, and that no treatment could have reversed the damage.
During a televised news conference in Largo, Fla., the Piniellas-Pasco Medical Examiner, Jon Thogmartin, also said the autopsy showed that Ms. Schiavo's condition was "consistent" with a person in a persistent vegetative state. That point had become a key issue in the debate over whether to prolong Ms. Schiavo's life and whether she had a chance to recover normal brain function.
Dr. Thogmartin said that recovery was not possible because of the massive brain damage that occurred after Ms. Schiavo collapsed in 1990. Her brain weighed 615 grams at the time of her death on March 31.
"This damage was irreversible," said Dr. Thogmartin. "No amount of therapy or treatment would have regenerated the massive loss of neurons."
Dr. Thogmartin said Ms. Schiavo technically died of "marked dehydration" - not starvation - after her feeding tube was removed.
But he said the underlying mystery at the heart of her case - why she suddenly collapsed 15 years ago -- could not be answered. He said he considered the manner of her death to be "undetermined."
Instead, the medical examiner discussed some factors that did not appear to lead to Ms. Schiavo's illness.
The autopsy, for instance, showed that physical abuse or poison did not play a role in her collapse , he said. Ms. Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, had accused their daughter's husband, Michael Schiavo, of abusing her, which he has steadfastly denied. Dr. Thogmartin also said there was no evidence she had had an eating disorder before she collapsed, although a disorder was widely suspected because she had diminished levels of potassium in her blood.
And despite a widely televised video that appeared to show Ms. Schiavo responding to voices and other movement in her room, the autopsy said that Ms. Schiavo was blind in her final days. The medical examiner said she would not have been able to eat or drink had she been fed by mouth, as her parents had requested. The autopsy found no evidence that she suffered a heart attack, or that she had been given harmful drugs that may have accelerated her death.
Asked about persistent vegetative state, Dr. Stephen Milton, a neuropathology expert who joined Dr. Thogmartin at the news conference, said that term referred to a clinical diagnosis, not a pathological diagnosis. But, he said, "There was nothing in the autopsy that is inconsistent with persistent vegetative state."
The lawyer for the Schindlers said at a news conference today that the parents continue to believe their daughter was not in a persistent vegetative state and thus should not have had her feeding tube removed.
"If Teri Schiavo had wanted to die, she had a lot of opportunities to die," said the lawyer, David Gibbs III.
Ms. Schiavo's parents sought the autopsy to determine the cause of Ms. Schiavo's mysterious collapse the night of Feb. 25, 1990. She had suffered extensive brain damage when her heart stopped beating and she lacked a pulse for more than one hour by the time emergency medical personnel arrived.
After her collapse, she had been able to breathe on her own and had periods of wakefulness, but most doctors agreed that Ms. Schiavo was in a "persistent vegetative state" and incapable of thought or emotion. Her parents however, argued that their daughter was minimally conscious and could recover through an intensive therapeutic regimen. The question of whether Ms. Schiavo should have been allowed to die, as her husband said she wanted, or be turned over to the care of her parents, who wanted to keep her alive, went on for seven years, and reached the Vatican, the White House, Congress and various state and federal courts, before finally reaching the Supreme Court, which declined to hear her case.
Her death on the last day of March came 13 days after a feeding tube that was keeping her alive had been removed. Her husband had sought the removal of the tube over the objection of the Schindlers.
At various times, the Schindlers accused Mr. Schiavo of physically abusing his wife, and suggested that poisoning or strangulation may have led to her collapse. Mr. Schiavo has repeatedly denied abusing his wife, and the medical examiner said several times today that there was no evidence of trauma consistent with physical abuse before her collapse.
At one point during the drawn-out dispute, President Bush returned to the White House from a Texas vacation late on a Sunday night solely to sign a law that allowed Ms. Schiavo's parents to seek a federal court review of the facts of the case. He praised Congress for "voting to give Terry Schiavo's parents another opportunity to save their daughter's life."
Ms. Schiavo's husband and parents, once close, battled over her fate since 1998, when Mr. Schiavo asked a state court's permission to remove life support.
Courts also found credible Mr. Schiavo's testimony that his wife, who left no written directive, had said on several occasions that she would not want life-prolonging measures to be used for her.
Mr. Schiavo's lawyer, George Felos, said today that his client was "pleased to hear the results" of the autopsy because it confirmed many of the points Mr. Schiavo has argued for several years. Mr. Felos also said that Mr. Schiavo had decided to release autopsy photos of his wife's brain in order to dispel any notion that she could have recovered.
He feels it is important to show "what is so apparent from these photographs," said Mr. Felos.
If I'm not mistaken, a diagnosis of PVS rules out the ability to track an object with your eyes.
She clearly did that. She clearly responded to at least two people that I saw, laughing at a joke. Did she 'get' the joke; I don't think so. Did she respond to something--her father's smile, his tone, ... undeniably.
From what I read, these things are impossible for people in PVS.
Frist could have been right. I wouldn't hazard a guess on his motive, but he could have been right.
No one can, with absolute certainty, say he was wrong. And that, to me, is good enough reason to 'do no harm'.