http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20050615/ts_nm/rights_schiavo_dcTerri Schiavo, a Florida woman who died in March after a fierce right-to-die battle that involved the U.S. Congress, was severely brain damaged and had no hope of recovery, said a medical examiner who made the results of an autopsy public on Wednesday.
The autopsy found no evidence to support her family's accusations that she suffered broken bones or other injuries as a result of abuse, and also cast doubt on allegations that an eating disorder contributed to her 1990 collapse.
The extensive examination of Schiavo's body found that her brain weighed only about half of what a healthy human brain would, Pinellas County medical examiner Jon Thogmartin, said at a news conference.
"Her brain was profoundly atrophied," he said. "This damage was irreversible."
Schiavo, who suffered a cardiac arrest in 1990 that deprived her brain of oxygen, died at a Florida hospice on March 31, 13 days after her feeding tube was removed by court order. She was 41.
She had been in what courts ruled was a "persistent vegetative state," which means she was unable to think, feel, or interact with her environment since her collapse 15 years previously.
The courts sided with her husband and legal guardian, Michael Schiavo, in ruling she would not have wanted to live like that. But her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, said she responded to them and could recover with treatment.
The Schindlers waged a seven-year legal battle to keep her alive, a cause that rallied the Christian right and prompted President Bush and the Republican-led Congress to rush through legislation giving the federal courts jurisdiction to intervene in what is normally a matter left to state courts.
Those courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, declined to order the feeding tube be reinserted.
The autopsy found that her brain was so severely damaged that no amount of therapy would have helped to regenerate it. Schiavo's parents had repeatedly said their daughter was responsive to them and could have been helped with therapy.
"She would not have been able to form any cognitive thought," said Dr. Stephen Nelson, a forensic pathologist who assisted in the autopsy. "There was a massive loss of brain tissue."
Thogmartin said Schiavo died of dehydration and did not starve to death. Supporters of Schiavo's parents had loudly complained she was being starved to death when the courts allowed the feeding tube to be removed.
The autopsy also found no evidence to support allegations that Schiavo had been given poison by her husband or that she had been mysteriously injected with something during or after a visit by her parents to the hospice where she was being cared for.
"No drugs or other substances given to Mrs. Schiavo caused her to die or accelerated the dying process," he said.