Schiavo’s husband orders autopsy to quiet dissenters

THE husband of brain-damaged Florida woman Terri Schiavo has ordered an autopsy after she dies to silence allegations his plan to cremate her body is aimed at hiding something, his lawyer said yesterday.

As supporters of Schiavo’s parents took their fight to prolong her life to Washington 10 days after her feeding was stopped, Michael Schiavo’s lawyer, George Felos, said her pulse had become “thready” and she had not passed urine for a while - a possible sign of approaching death.

He said Michael Schiavo, who has been pitted against the parents in a seven-year legal conflict over whether to allow Schiavo to die, requested an official autopsy to show the “massive” extent of the brain damage she suffered in 1990.

“We didn’t think it was appropriate to talk about an autopsy prior to Mrs Schiavo’s death,” Felos told reporters in Dunedin, Florida.

“But because claims have been made by, I guess, opponents of carrying out her wishes that there was some motive behind the cremation of Mrs Schiavo we felt it was necessary to make that announcement today.”

Disagreement over the planned cremation rather than the full burial demanded by Schiavo’s Catholic parents has been a subplot to the long legal battle.

The fate of the woman, who has been in a persistent vegetative state since suffering cardiac arrest, has become a cause for Christian conservatives and drawn in Congress, President George W Bush and his brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

State courts have accepted testimony from Michael Schiavo and others that she did not want to be kept alive artificially, but her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, disagree, and maintain she tries to communicate with them.

Pressured by the Christian right, Congress passed a special law that allowed the Schindlers to take their case to federal court and President Bush cut short a vacation to sign it.

The effort proved in vain as court after court - all the way to the US Supreme Court - rejected a flurry of petitions since the feeding tube was disconnected on March 18.

Nevertheless, supporters of Bob and Mary Schindler again appealed for federal or state intervention.

Bob Schindler, who has at times asserted his daughter was in her final hours and at others maintained that it was not too late to intervene, said earlier she was “fighting like hell”.

Doctors said when the feeding tube was disconnected she would likely last for up to two weeks without sustenance.

Schindler said Schiavo was beginning to look like a Nazi “concentration camp” survivor and voiced a fear that hospice staff might try to hasten her end by giving her an overdose of morphine.

“We do not hasten death in any way, nor do we prolong life. That is not our role,” said Louise Cleary, a spokeswoman for the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast.

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