Terri Schiavo's Autopsy Results

A few days ago, I wondered out loud if the results of Terri Schiavo’s autopsy might mean that Michael is owed an apology. The discussion in the comments was long and interesting. Be sure to check it out.

That discussion got me thinking about some issues surrounding the autopsy results, the post mortem diagnose, and the various medical examinations during Terri’s life.

The report says that her brain was severely atrophied. Does it corroborate the CT scan interpretation that she lacked any useful cortical tissue? (If the report reveals cortical function, however minimal, the official interpretation of her CT scans is wrong.)

How much cortical functionality is required for minimally human behavior? (Even if the report found functioning cortex, Terri might still have been vegetative.)

Regardless of whether she lacked cortical function at the time of death or not, could that fact be determined beyond reasonable doubt via scans (or other available means)? (Being right after the fact is meaningless if there was no reliable way to be certain beyond resonable doubt that Terri would be better off dead.)

Assuming that the “right” scan(s) could determine presense or lack of functional cortex, was the CT scan done in 2002 sufficiently convincing? (This ties into the previous question. Though one might theoretically be able to determine by reasonable doubt lack of cortical function, actual scans performed might not have sufficient resolution to allow that determination.)

Assuming that Michael Schiavo and other parties had sufficient evidence that Terri lacked meaningful neural activity beyond autonomic functions, was dehydration/starvion an appropriate way to end her life? (Why didn’t they just give her a lethal injection?)

The report determined her condition at time of death. Was her cerebral atrophy always that bad? Was the damage always irreverible? Could, as the family claims, aggressive therapy helped Terri?

Terri’s collapse was not caused by bulimia. Doesn’t that contradict the basis of Michael’s medical malpractice suit? Should he be asked to return the settlement he won?

There was no evidence of abuse. Even if (let’s say) Michael Schiavo is a jerk with questionable motives, is he not still owed an apology for being accused of abusing his wife?


Update: I received some angry email from a woman named Gayle, who seems to think that I’m totally in the “Michael Schiavo has been vidicated” crowd. I’m just thinking out loud and hoping the discussion is interesting an experience I can learn from. Anyhow, since any email sent to me is bloggable unless stated otherwise, here are her comments and my responses.

“Michael Schiavo (‘MRS’) of denied rehabilitative therapy to his
‘spouse’ Terri. In fact, Terri was maintained in a state of a
relatively HIGH degree of sensory deprivation for over a decade.
Florida law REQUIRES rehabilitative therapy be given. Do refuse
it is illegal, and surely amounts to abuse.”

“Everybody knows this. Why don’t you?”

1. If I recall correctly, Terri did indeed receive therapy early on, which produced no noticeable improvements. 2. While I think it odd and suspcious that he ordered that she never leave her room, I’d hardly call a hospice with frequent medical and family visitors sensory deprivation. If there’s something I missed, please enlighten me. I’d be glad to discuss it. 3. For how long is rehabilitation required? Are there any legal reasons for the cessation of therapy? 4. Everybody knows Florida law?!? OK…

“I believe that MRS also abused his wife by torturing her to death
by dehydration, and I presume you have a television, but somehow
you don’t know this, either.”

Was the body that died by dehydration still Terri Schiavo or had she long since ceased to be truly human? Was she still a person? I don’t know. That’s the kind of thing I want to discuss with people. Furthermore, I wonder if her personhood status was even knowable. Lastly, did the actions fo Michael Schiavo and the medical staff at her hospice constitute cruelty? Again, I don’t know. Let’s talk about it.

“The circumstances surrounding Terri’s collapse SCREAM that an
investigation should have been made, 15 years ago. Now, we
find out that ALLEGED bulimia was probably NOT a factor in her
collapse, and the observed electrolyte imbalance must have been
caused by something else. There was no investigation. Why?”

Do you think none of the litany of doctors to look at her ever wondered about or investigated the cause of her collapse?!? Obviously insufficient evidence was found to justify a criminal investigation of Michael.

“This last set of facts proves that MRS probably perjured
himself on many occasions, claiming that his wife was
bulimic, when the postmortem showed she was not. Friends and
acquaintances CLAIM SHE WAS NOT. And in fact, MRS pocketed
an unknown amount of money in excess of about $1.6 million
dollars, based on the lie that Terri Schindler had bulimia.”

That’s a good point and one worth discussing. In fact it’s so good I brought it up in this post this morning. Everybody knows this. Why don’t you?

“Even if Terri was bulimic, the other information including
the long delay between here collapse and the 911 call, SCREAM
that an investigation should have been made.”

Why are we only hearing about this now? In all the furor a few months ago I never once heard about this issue. Something smells fishy…

“I think your proposed apology to MRS is at best premature.”

Mayhaps. Bear in mind that I merely suggested it as a possibility. I didn’t say I thought it to be immediately necessary.

“One more important fact:”

“Bulimics don’t purge more than a few minutes (say 30 to 60,
I don’t know the exact number) after eating.”

“It is almost impossible to imagine that Terri could have
been purging an evening meal, at 4AM.”

“Why don’t you check it out?”

Ummm…did I suggest otherwise? As I recall, I accepted the medical examiner’s assertion that her collapse was not caused by bullemia without question. Some of your questions and comments suggest you haven’t really read what I’ve written. Why don’t you check it out?