The Terri Schiavo autopsy report has been released. The medical examiner says he found "irreversible brain injury" making it impossible for the woman to have recovered as her parents claimed would have been possible. Her brain was half the normal size and there was no indication of any trauma occurring before the accident that led to her persistent vegetative state (PVS).
Her husband and parents remained at odds for years over whether to remove a feeding tube keeping Ms Schiavo alive. Her parents claimed she could recover, her husband insisted she'd asked that heroic measures not be taken to keep her alive.
Ms Schiavo was taken off artificial life support under a court order earlier this year. She had been on a feeding tube -- a machine that pumped a nutrient paste directly into her digestive tract -- since lapsing into PVS more than a decade ago.
Autopsy Report Showed No Hope
Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner Jon Thogmartin says his autopsy showed there was no hope for recovery:
``The brain weighed 615 grams, roughly half of the expected weight of a human brain. ... This damage was irreversible, and no amount of therapy or treatment would have regenerated the massive loss of neurons.''
Debate over removing the feeding tube led to court challenges resulting in at least five US Supreme Court decisions in the case. Congress and the Florida legislature both passed bills aimed at keeping the feeding tube in place.
Political Haymaking & Backlashes
Schiavo's parents apparently cashed in, turning over a list of donors' names and addresses to a company that does mass mailing appeals for contributions to conservative candidates and causes.
Sen Rick Santorum (R-PA), a vocal opponent of removing the feeding tube, used the case to run up campaign contributions for his re-election bid.
But Republicans were caught circulating a memo explaining how to cash in on the case. That led to the memo author being fired -- and immediately coming back to Washington as a lobbyist.
Republicans in Congress jumped on the opportunity to use repeated rulings to remove the feeding tube as ammunition in pushing for President Bush's judicial nominees. Sen John Cornyn (R-TX) linked recent violence against judges to public opinion against "activist judges," alluding to the Schiavo case. And House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) snapped, "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior."
Both men later apologized for their statements. But branded Rep DeLay enough to get him mentioned in an episode of NBC's "Law & Order" where police were looking for a suspect in a judge's murder -- and joked about a suspect wearing a "Tom DeLay t-shirt."
The GOP's handling of the case -- including a late night flight from Texas to DC by President Bush to sign a bill aimed at keeping the feeding tube in place -- is seen as the beginning of a months-long slide in the President's approval rating.
[Crossposted at Watching Washington]