Autopsy reveals Terri Schiavo's brain was atrophied, dehydration caused death

A much-anticipated autopsy report confirmed yesterday that Terri Schiavo died of dehydration. Medical examiners said they were surprised by the extent of her dehydration.

The 41-year-old disabled Florida woman was the focus of a heated national right-to-life debate earlier this year. She died March 31, after a court granted her husband the right to have her feeding tube removed.

Schiavo had been in what her doctors described as a “vegetative state” for 15 years. Yet, her parents had argued that her condition could have improved with consistent therapy.

Medical Examiner Jon Thogmartin of Florida's Pinellas-Pasco County countered her parents’ longheld view in his autopsy report. He said Schiavo's brain was severely atrophied, weighing 615 grams — about half the size of a normal brain — at the time of her death.

“No amount of therapy or treatment would have regenerated the massive loss of neurons,” Thogmartin said during a televised conference yesterday. He also said she was completely blind.

 Examiners weren't able to determine what caused Schiavo’s heart to stop beating for several minutes in 1990, causing her to collapse into her disabled state. The autopsy, which included more than 274 external and internal images of her body, did not find any signs of abuse.

Schiavo’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, have requested that other physicians review the report.

Pro-life groups respond to autopsy report

Pro-life groups, which were active in the fight to keep Schiavo alive, said the autopsy does not change the fact that all people deserve proper care, regardless of their disabilities.

Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said the autopsy does not change “the moral evaluation of what happened to Terri.

“Her physical injuries and disabilities never made her less of a person,” said Fr. Pavone. “No amount of brain injury ever justifies denying a person proper humane care. That includes food and water.

“Terri did not die from an atrophied brain,” he continued. “She died from an atrophy of compassion on the part of her estranged husband and those who helped him to have her deliberately killed.”

"Terri Schiavo died because the court ordered the removal of the instrument that provided her water,” said Wendy Wright, Concerned Women for America's senior policy director. “She was disabled, and her death was due to the deliberate denial of hydration.

"There is no medical condition or disability that should ever be championed as a justifiable reason to deny water to a human being” she continued. “Every human life has worth and a purpose apart from its merit to society that must be vigorously defended and upheld, not crushed."

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