Euthanasia and Terri Schiavo
Results of the
Follow-up and afterthoughts
Results of the autopsy:
An autopsy was performed on the body of Terri Schiavo on 2005-APR-01. This
was one day after she died. Results were released on JUN-13. As expected, they
raised more questions than they answered.
Jon R. Thogmartin, the Medical Examiner of District Six, Florida, commented
on the Terri Schiavo's brain:
"Brain weight is an important index of its pathological state....The
decedent's brain was grossly abnormal and weighted only 615 grams (1.35
lbs.). That weight is less than half of the expected tabular weight for a
decedent of her adult age of 41 years, 3 months....By way of comparison, the
brain of Karen Ann Quinlan weighed 835 grams at the time of her death, after
10 years in a similar persistent vegetative state." 1,2
Stephen J. Nelson, the Chief Medical Examiner of
the 10th Judicial Court of Florida concluded:
"Neuropathologic examination alone of the
decedent's brain -- or any brain, for that matter -- cannot prove or
disprove a diagnosis of persistent vegetative state or minimally conscious
A diagnosis of either state can only be determined
after an extensive examination by a qualified specialist while the patient is
alive and can be tested. This was done on Terri Schiavo by a number of court appointed
neurologists. They unanimously agreed that Terri was in a persistent vegetative
state. She was also casually viewed by a few physicians, either directly or by
watching carefully edited videotapes. Some of the latter believe that she was in a
minimally conscious state.
Jon R. Thogmartin, the Medical Examiner of District Six, Florida, was unable
to determine the cause of her collapse in 1990:
||There is no evidence from the observations of her family or friends that
she suffered from an eating disorder. However, her serum potassium level was
abnormally low when she was first admitted to hospital after her collapse.
At the time, physicians assumed that the low potassium level was caused by
an eating disorder during the weeks prior to her collapse. Dr. Thogmartin
believes that the level might have been caused by her heart having being in
ventricular fibrillation, the administering of the drug epinephrine, and the
administration of fluids, at the time of or following her collapse.
||There is no evidence that she suffered a myocardial infarction (heart
attack). Her heart "was anatomically normal without any areas of recent
or remote myocardial infarction."
||Extensive physical exams and radiographs were performed on Terri by
hospital personnel, starting shortly after her collapse. There was no
indication that Terri had been strangled. She had no traumatic
injuries to her body. If she had, "contusions, abrasions, recent
fractures and...healing fractures" would have been detected by medical
personnel at the time.
||A bone scan was performed in 1991. The request form mentioned a "closed
head injury." The report stated that "the patient has a history of
trauma." However, these comments appear to be erroneous.
||She had a compression fracture of the spine which is commonly found in
persons, like Terri, who have osteoporosis.
||"Mrs. Schiavo would not have been able to consume sustenance safely
and/or in sufficient quantity by mouth." Any attempt to do so would have
resulted in aspiration of food into her lungs -- a very dangerous situation.
||There were allegations in the media that Mr. Schiavo was being drugged
with morphine in order to expedite the dying process. Morphine suppresses
breathing and hastens death. She received two morphine suppositories -- one
on 2005-MAR-19 and one on MAR-26 -- 12 and 5 days before her death. There was no trace of
morphine in her body when she died.
||There was no evidence of injury to the brain. However, the there was "massive
cerebral atrophy. Her brain weight was approximately half of the expected
weight." She was blind, as evidenced by damage and neuronal loss in
occipital lobes of her brain.
||Terri did not starve to death. She died of dehydration.
The cause of her collapse in 1990 is impossible to determine with the
Statement by Terri Schiavo's parents:
Terri Schiavo's parents issued a statement on 2005-JUN-16 via the Christian
Communication Network. It said, in part:
||"First, the IME's report confirms Terri's physical condition and
disability. We all knew Terri was seriously brain-injured before the IME
report. This is nothing new. The IME's report also confirms that TERRI WAS
NOT TERMINAL. THAT TERRI HAD NO LIVING WILL, THAT TERRI HAD A STRONG HEART,
and THAT TERRI WAS BRUTALLY DEHYDRATED TO DEATH."
||"Second, our family would encourage the media to remember that this case
was allegedly about "Terri's choice." There is absolutely no evidence
that Terri wanted to die of dehydration, or that she believed that that the
level of one's disability gives anyone the moral and legal right to end
||"Third, the IME said clearly that dehydration, not her brain injury, was
the cause of her death. Terri was dehydrated to death before our eyes The
moral shame of what happened is not erased because of Terri's level of
disability. No one would say that "blind people" or "brain-injured"
people should be put to death. That would be an irresponsible and heartless
position to take. Tragically, that is what happened to Terri. As a society,
it seems that we have lost our compassion for the disabled."
They also mentioned that:
||Terri was not terminally ill at the time that her feeding tube was
removed. The IME predicted that her body would not have died on its own for
perhaps another decade, if she continued to receive the type of quality care and
nourishment which she had been given in the past.
||The IME determined that her collapse in 1990 was not caused by bulimia
or a heart attack.
||They believe that Terri was not blind; they believe that she became
blind only after the feeding tube was removed.
||Terri must have felt pain as she was dehydrated. Otherwise, there would
have been no reason why she would have been given morphine.
Activity by Governor Jeb Bush:
Governor Bush discussed the autopsy results with Dr. Thogmartin in private
before they were released. Governor Bush said: "What he [Thogmartin]
did say to me that was troubling ... was that there was some doubt about when
she collapsed and how long it took for a phone call to be made to 911. I think
that is worthy of some investigation."
According to the St. Petersburg Times, "Refusing to give up on the Terri
Schiavo case, Gov. Jeb Bush has asked Pinellas prosecutors to sort out time
discrepancies Michael Schiavo has provided regarding the hour he found his wife
unconscious 15 years ago."
Michael Schiavo recalls that Terri collapsed at about 4:30 AM. He said that
he called 911 immediately. But telephone records show that 911 was not called until 5:40
||David Gibbs III, the attorney for Terri's parents, commented on
2005-JUN-15 that: "I think this is a very troubling gap in time. Michael
Schiavo needs to step forward and explain."
||George Felos, the attorney for Michael Schiavo attributes the
discrepancy to a simple mistake, based on attempting to recall details of
the timing of an extremely upsetting event over 15 years ago. Felos said: "I think it's
preposterous and ludicrous that if Michael did say 4:30 or 5 or something
like that, that there's any issue. The opponents of Terri Schiavo's wishes
are intent on creating a controversy in this case where none exists." He
suggested that if Michael Schiavo had waited 70 minutes before calling 911,
that "She would have been dead before they (paramedics) got there."
||Dr. Amyn M. Rojiani, a pathology professor at the University of South
Florida College of Medicine, said that he didn't think it would be
possible for Terri's heart to stop about 4:30 and be restarted by paramedics
at 6:32 -- two hours later.
||George Felos commented on the intervention by Governor Bush: "I think
it's sad and disgusting given the governor's continuing unwarranted meddling
in this case. The extent to which he will prostitute himself to right-wing
constituents for his future political gain I think is just pitiful."
Bruce Bartlett, assistant to the State Attorney Bernie McCabe, said on
JUN-16: "We are going to look into the circumstances surrounding the times.
The governor has expressed concern over that aspect of the case."
McCabe reported back to Governor Bush in early July. He concluded that there
was no wrongdoing in the case. He determined that Michael Schiavo had contacted
911 at about 5:50 AM, very shortly after Terri collapsed. The gap in the record
was apparently caused by Michael's difficulty in reconstructing the events
fifteen years previously.
Follow-up and afterthoughts:
||2006-JAN-21: Michael Schiavo married Jodi Centonze on in the Roman Catholic
Church of Espiritu Santo in Florida. While his former wife was in a persistent
vegetative state Michael had lived with Jodi; together they had two children.
||2006-JAN-21: LifeSiteNews.com reported that on the same day:
"...Terri Schiavoís sister Suzanne Vitadamo spoke out against the
Catholic bishops of Florida, saying Terri may not have been killed if the
bishops would have supported the fight to protect her life."
"Speaking at a 'Stand Up for Life' rally in South Carolina, Ms. Vitadamo
said if the Florida bishops had stepped forward
and denounced what was taking place 'there would have been such an
enormous outcry of support from parishioners in our diocese and from
Catholics around the world that my sister could very well be alive today'."
||2006-JAN-29: Senate Majority
Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) indicated on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he
had also had second thoughts about his involvement in the Schiavo case. He
"Well, Iíll tell you what I learned from it, which is obvious. The
American people donít want you involved in these decisions....I didnít
make the diagnosis. I raised the question of whether or not she was in a
persistent vegetative state.....When youíre taking innocent life, with
parents who want that life preserved, youíve got to make sure, and
therefore stepping in to say, letís take one more review, thatís what we
did. I accept the outcome. I donít agree with the moral sense of it."
||2006-FEB-13: Senator Mel Martinez
(R-FL) had promoted a bill in Congress that would have given federal courts
jurisdiction to reinstate Terri Schiavo's feeding tubes. In an interview for
a Florida TV program "Political Connections" he said:
"If I had to take one lesson away, it's perhaps decisions of this
nature really belong in state courts, not federal courts. Perhaps this
was not in the realm of federal concern. It may have been better left to
state courts to deal with it." 8
"Report of Autopsy," Medical Examiner, District Six, 2005-APR-01,
Page 16, at:
H.C. Kinney et al., "Neuropathological findings in the brain of Karen Ann
Quinlan...," The New England Journal of Medicine, 1994; 330: 1468-1475.
- Op Cit, "Report of Autopsy," Page 28.
"Schindler Family's Statement on Medical Examiner's Report,"
Christian Communication Network, 2005-JUN-16, at:
Cris Tisch & Joni James, "Schiavo timeline troubles governor. The state
attorney will review discrepancies concerning Terri Schiavo's unexplained
collapse," St. Petersburg Times, 2005-JUN-17, at:
Gudrun Schultz, "Terri Schiavoís Husband Re-Married in Catholic Church,"
LifeSiteNews.com, 2006-JAN-23, at:
"Frist says Schiavo case taught him a lesson. Senate majority leader:
Americans donít want govít involved in such choices," Meet the Press,
"Sen. Martinez says he was mistaken on Schiavo debate," Associated
Press, 2006-FEB-13, at:
Copyright © 2005 & 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2005-JUN-19
Latest update: 2006-MAR-27
Author: B.A. Robinson