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Schiavo's Husband and Parents Now Battling Over Autopsy Plan

By Manuel Roig-Franzia and Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, March 29, 2005; Page A03

PINELLAS PARK, Fla., March 28 -- The war over Terri Schiavo, once tightly focused on whether she would live or die, shifted at times Monday to arguments over how her body will be examined.

Her husband, Michael Schiavo, wants an autopsy in hopes of proving the severity of her brain damage. Her parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, want a medical examination to answer questions about their suspicions that Michael Schiavo may have broken her bones in what they say may have been an attack that caused her brain injury, an allegation that was previously made.

Rosemarie Mitchell confronts Brian Wilson outside Terri Schiavo's hospice after he said protesters should go home. (Evan Vucci -- AP)

_____In Washington_____
Video: Protesters rallied in Washington in an attempt to convince lawmakers to keep Terri Schiavo alive.
_____From Florida_____
Video: The Post's Manuel Roig-Franzia on the latest in the Terri Schiavo story.
_____Outlook Discussion_____
Live, 11 a.m. ET: Jeffrey Rosen, George Washington U. law professor and legal editor of "New Republic," discusses his Sunday Outlook article, "It's the Law, Not the Judge."
Key Legal Arguments
_____From FindLaw_____
Terri Schiavo Legal Case
_____Latest Coverage_____
Schiavo Family Urges Protesters to Stay Calm (The Washington Post, Mar 28, 2005)
Fla. High Court Rejects Schindlers' Appeal (The Washington Post, Mar 27, 2005)

Michael Schiavo and his attorneys have vehemently denied the accusation, saying doctors believe Schiavo's brain injury was caused by a lack of oxygen after a heart attack.

The dueling plans for examining Terri Schiavo's body were announced Monday as protesters carried crucifixes into Lafayette Square across from the White House, then visited three congressional offices to pressure lawmakers to intervene again in the case.

But their pleas are unlikely to yield action: The House Government Reform Committee, which had issued a subpoena for Schiavo to appear at a hearing at her hospice, has withdrawn the subpoena, and House officials said another will not be issued. Nonetheless, House officials met with protesters and assured them that lawmakers will inquire into the broader issues raised by the case.

The political realm is the last hope for the Schindlers, who have ended their legal fight to have their daughter's feeding tube reinserted after state and federal courts repeatedly rejected their case. Robert Schindler and his supporters urged Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) to step into the case Monday, as they have for days, even though courts have ruled that the governor does not have authority to take custody of Schiavo.

"I plead again with the powers that be, don't give up on her," Schindler said after visiting his daughter.

Bush told reporters Monday that he has no more options. "I have not seen any means by which the executive branch can get involved," he said. "My heart is broken about this."

With political and legal options for the Schindlers to force their daughter's feeding to be resumed vanishing fast, talk increasingly has turned to what will happen when she is gone.

Jon R. Thogmartin, chief medical examiner of Pinellas County, will perform an autopsy immediately after she dies, said George Felos, attorney for Michael Schiavo. The results will be released to the public at Michael Schiavo's request, he said.

"He believes it is important to have the public know the full and massive extent of the damage to Mrs. Schiavo's brain," Felos said.

Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, a spokesman for Schiavo's parents, said the Schindlers have not requested an autopsy and prefer not to talk about the procedure because they are still hoping for a last-minute miracle to keep their daughter alive.

Instead, Terry said, the family wants her to be examined to determine whether Michael Schiavo attacked her. Terry called the autopsy "a way to cover [Michael Schiavo's] behind."

The two sides have been unable to agree on almost anything, and again gave different accounts of Terri Schiavo's condition. Schindler compared his daughter to a concentration camp victim, saying, "You can visualize in your mind how they came out, when their faces are all sunken in and their eyes were bulging -- that's how Terri looks.

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