June 15, 2005
Teri Schiavo's autopsy has been released. Her brain was in a terrible condition:
The autopsy released Wednesday on Terri Schiavo backed her husband's contention that she was in a persistent vegetative state, finding she was severely and irreversibly brain-damaged and blind as well. It also found no evidence that she was strangled or otherwise abused before she collapsed.
The autospy vindicates Michael Schiavo to the extent that Teri might have been in a persistent vegetative state (PVS)). Maybe, maybe not. Knowing that doesn't get us any closer to deciding if a PVS should be equated with brain death. If it is then Teri wasn't killed when her feeding tube was removed. She was dead already. Those who advocated that Teri should continued to be fed could second guess themselves and wonder if they fought for a just cause. I have no regrets. There were serious questions surrounding Teri's condition. Teri's parents talked on and on about how she could be trained to swallow. Based on the medical examiner's report that wasn't possible. That still doesn't mean it was right to let her starve (actually die of thirst). I never expected Teri's condition to ever improve.
If there was a living will I would have excepted Teri's cruel death. But since there was so much doubt I sided with caution and life. I heed the words of Fr. Frank Pavone:
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.
Barbara Lyons of Wisconsin Right to Life adds [PDF]:
While the reportís findings may be of interest to some, the fact remains that a severely disabled woman was intentionally killed and in a profoundly horrible manner. This debate was never about whether Terri was abused by her husband or what the size of her brain was. It was about whether our society believes that individuals with disabilities should be treated with care and compassion or whether they should be cast aside and even killed.
And Steven Taylor is dead on when he writes, "Of course, all of this is unlikely to sway True Believers."
"Schiavo Autopsy Shows Massive Brain Damage"
UPDATE: Kevin Aylward noticed the "sloppy reporting on the autopsy." AP reporter Mitch Stacy practically says the medical examiner proved Teri was in a PVS. If you read the report (pg. 17) you find this passage:
The persistent vegetative state and minimally conscious state, are clinical diagnoses, not pathological ones.
Thus the medical examiner can't determine after death if Teri was in a PVS.