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Autopsy issue part of a day of sparring

Published March 30, 2005

New court activity: A federal appeals court agreed late Tuesday to allow Terri Schiavo's parents to file a motion for a rehearing on a request to have the woman's feeding tube reinserted. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta agreed to consider a motion on whether a Tampa federal judge should have considered the entire state court record and not just the procedural history.
Pinellas Park, a tale of two cities
Autopsy issue part of a day of sparring
E-mails on Schiavo pour into city queues
Money trail leads to rancor
Schiavo obituary placed on Internet by mistake
'I'm here because I care,' Jackson tells crowd

PINELLAS PARK - With cameras clicking, attorney George Felos announced Monday that Michael Schiavo had asked for an autopsy on his wife.

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

But by then, Jon Thogmartin, medical examiner for Pinellas and Pasco counties, already had decided to conduct the autopsy.

And the decision had nothing to do with Michael Schiavo's wishes, said Bill Pellan, director of investigations for the medical examiner.

"We have determined to be involved because of the statutes and because the people of the state of Florida say we are involved," Pellan said. "Not because Michael Schiavo wants us involved."

The incident is another example of the public relations battle over Terri Schiavo's fate. On Tuesday, the sparring continued.

Schiavo's parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, lost another round in court. The 2nd District Court of Appeal in Lakeland upheld a previous ruling that blocked the Department of Children and Families from intervening in the case.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson visited the hospice to pray for Schiavo, demonstrating that support for the Schindlers spans the political spectrum. Jackson, a liberal Democrat, stood side-by-side with Randall Terry, the conservative Christian activist.

Police used a Taser to arrest a protester who tried to enter the hospice, the 47th such arrest. Pinellas sheriff's deputies also called out a canine unit to search the hospice after a bomb threat. They found nothing.

On the autopsy, the Schindler's supporters said they hoped it would prove that Michael Schiavo had abused his wife, which he has denied.

Autopsies can detect whether an adult's bones had broken and healed, even many years ago, said Dr. Michael Baden, chief forensic pathologist for the New York State Police.

Florida statute 406.11 requires medical examiners to determine the cause of death of someone who dies in any "unusual circumstance." It also requires the medical examiner to get involved when someone's body is cremated, which is what Michael Schiavo plans to do with his wife's remains.

A few days ago, Pellan said Felos asked the medical examiner's office about procedures for requesting an autopsy. Then Monday, as required by law, Pellan notified Schiavo that the office would do an autopsy.

"There was not a call from Mr. Felos," Pellan said.

Felos could not be reached Tuesday on the autopsy matter.

On Tuesday, Terri's brother, Bobby Schindler, criticized Michael for refusing to allow a Catholic priest to administer Holy Communion to Terri. He said it violates her constitutional rights.

As her guardian, Terri's husband controls who sees her.

"We were told that if the monsignor tried to administer Holy Communion to Terri that he would be essentially arrested," said Schindler, who visited his sister with the priest. Three officers were standing inside the hospice room, he said.

Monsignor Thaddeus Malanowski gave Terri communion on Easter Sunday and on March 18, a few hours before her feeding tube was removed.

Bob Schindler, who visited his daughter Tuesday, described her as "failing."

"She still looks pretty darn good under the circumstances," he added. "We still have her."

One expert said Tuesday that Terri Schiavo likely will die within a day or two.

Dr. William M. Lamers Jr., medical consultant to the Hospice Foundation of America, cautioned that is impossible to predict the time of death.

After hearing the description of Schiavo's condition, Lamers said she is approaching the end.

He said her skin is likely to begin to cool. Then, in the hours before her death, her breathing probably will change to what's known as Cheyne-Stokes breathing: cycles of shallow, then deep breaths, followed by a short period of no breathing, then another cycle of shallow breathing that becomes deeper.

Outside the hospice, the crowds prayed for a miracle.

Dow Pursley, 56, of Scranton, Pa., dashed through police lines on a beeline for the hospice's front day. Unlike symbolic civil disobedience in recent days, Pursely seemed determined to actually enter the hospice.

Pinellas Park police officers tackled him near the front door, then shot him with a Taser gun when he refused to obey orders.

He was charged with burglary to an occupied dwelling and resisting arrest without violence, and was held Tuesday night in Pinellas County Jail on $20,500 bail.

Times researcher Kitty Bennett and staff writers Adrienne P. Samuels, Lisa Greene and Alex Leary contributed to this report, which used information from the Associated Press.

[Last modified March 30, 2005, 01:24:13]

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