Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Schiavo Autopsy Shows Severe Brain Damage

Terri Schiavo died of the effects of a profound and prolonged lack of oxygen to her brain on a day in 1990, but what caused that event isn't known and may never be, the physician who performed her autopsy said today.

A meticulous study of the organs, fluids, bones, cells and medical records of the Florida woman who became a cause celebre over the "right to die" also found that her brain was severely shriveled and weighed about half that of a normal adult's. The damage to it "was irrecoverable, and no amount of treatment or rehabilitation would have reversed" it, said pathologist Jon R. Thogmartin, who is the chief medical examiner for Florida's sixth judicial district.

The damage was especially severe in the region responsible for vision, making her functionally blind, he said at a news conference in Florida.


"She died of marked dehydration," he said. "She did not starve to death." As measured by the balance of salt and water in her body fluids, the dehydration was the most severe he had ever seen. This attested to Schiavo's robust underlying health, and in particular the strength of her heart, the pathologist said.


Examination of the heart showed no evidence of damage from a heart attack. A study of her genes by a Connecticut company called Genissance found no evidence of the mutations causing long-QT syndrome, which is an increasingly well-recognized cause of sudden cardiac death in otherwise healthy young people.

The news spin is that her condition was irreversible. My contention is/was that even if she couldn't improve her life was worth living. Her life was as valuable as yours as mine. It might not be the life we want to live. However she had family that loved her and wanted to care for her.

“No details of this autopsy change the moral evaluation of what happened to Terri. Her physical injuries and disabilities never made her less of a person. No amount of brain injury ever justifies denying a person proper humane care. That includes food and water.
“A person with a 'profoundly atrophied' brain needs profound care and love. Terri did not die from an atrophied brain. She died from an atrophy of compassion on the part of her estranged husband and those who helped him to have her deliberately killed.”-Fr. Frank Pavone


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