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Husband seeks autopsy on Terri Schiavo

Fight over brain-damaged woman moves to Washington


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"It's incredible to see how [Terri] is acting," Bob Schindler told reporters Monday during a news conference.
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Popular opinion on the Schiavo case cuts across party lines.

A doctor explains the process of dying and hospice care.

Parents explain why they bring children to Schiavo protest.
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Terri Schiavo
Florida

PINELLAS PARK, Florida (CNN) -- Terri Schiavo's husband has asked that an autopsy be performed on his wife after she dies so that a full report can be done on the extent of her brain damage, an attorney for Michael Schiavo said Monday.

Attorney George Felos said the autopsy will be performed by Dr. Jon Thogmartin, the chief medical examiner of Pinellas County.

Terri Schiavo, who hasn't had water or nutrients since March 18, is likely to die by week's end, doctors have said.

Now 41, Terri Schiavo collapsed in 1990 from cardiac arrest and suffered brain damage because of lack of oxygen. She has been in the center of a decade-long legal tug-of-war between her husband and guardian, Michael, and her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler.

Michael Schiavo maintains his wife would not want to be kept alive in her condition, while her parents claim she could improve with intense therapy.

Schindler supporters in Florida and Washington appealed Monday to have Terri Schiavo's feeding tube reinserted.

Bob Schindler spoke to reporters Monday after visiting his daughter at her hospice in Pinellas Park. "She's failing, but she's still with us," he said. "She has to be saved.

"I plead again that the powers-that-be don't give up on her. We haven't given up on her and she hasn't given up on us."

Terri Schiavo's sister said she "is wide awake and very responsive."

"She recognizes me," Suzanne Vitadamo said Monday. "She's weaker but she's still trying to talk."

Felos said he visited with Terri Schiavo Monday and that she appeared "very calm."

"I saw no evidence of bodily discomfort whatsoever," he said.

He said her condition had changed little from his last visit on Saturday.

"Terri's eyes do look more sunken," Felos said. "And her breathing was a little on the rapid side."

He described her pulse as "thready," or slow, and said she had not urinated since Sunday.

CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurologist, said that is a sign her kidneys are failing and that she has reached a point where, even if the feeding tube was reinserted, it likely wouldn't help.

Congress lobbied

The Rev. Patrick Mahoney, a conservative Christian activist who has been leading demonstrations outside Terri Schiavo's Florida hospice, took his fight to Washington on Monday.

"We are here demanding answers," said Mahoney, standing in the rain across the street from the White House with about a dozen supporters behind him.

Mahoney was pushing for congressional leaders -- including House Speaker Dennis Hastert and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay -- to enforce a subpoena issued by a House committee. The subpoena orders Schiavo to appear before Congress.

That subpoena was issued March 18, the day Schiavo's feeding tube was removed by order of a Florida state judge. That same judge quashed the House subpoena, and the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal of that decision.

Mahoney and his wife met with two senior attorneys for the House of Representatives for about an hour Monday.

Afterward, he said that by canceling Terri Schiavo's hearing, House leadership "might have lost an opportunity to save Terri's life."

Mahoney and a small group then hoped to meet with Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis. He met with Davis' press secretary, David Marin, who told CNN, "We don't see any other legal action we can take."

Numerous state court judges have sided with Michael Schiavo. Court-appointed doctors in Florida have found that she is in a persistent vegetative state, despite arguments from her parents.

Governor pressured

President Bush signed federal legislation on March 21 to move the case from state court to federal court. (Full story)

But the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, refused to overturn the state decisions. (Full story)

Paul O'Donnell, a Franciscan monk who has been acting as a spokesman for the Schindlers, stepped up pressure on Bush's brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, calling on him Monday to "step in and take custody" of Terri Schiavo.

"We're begging, governor: Do something today, now," O'Donnell said. "Don't join the culture of death and be writing this woman's obituary."

The Florida governor has sided with the Schindlers and made efforts to have the tube reinserted, adding his support to state legislation. But by Sunday, Gov. Bush said he had done all he could. (Full story)

Speaking briefly to reporters Monday, Gov. Bush said he is "respectful of the judiciary's decisions," but "from a personal perspective it just breaks my heart."

"My legal counsel has talked to the Schindler family and their lawyer over the weekend, and I think they've exhausted their remedies as well," he said.

A crowd of protesters has gathered daily outside Schiavo's hospice. Since March 19, 46 people have been arrested, most of them for stepping over a police line in a symbolic effort to bring Schiavo water, said Pinellas Park police Capt. Sanfield Forseth.

Of those 46, only five people were from Florida, he said.

In Asheville, North Carolina, a man accused of soliciting offers for the murder of Michael Schiavo, Richard Alan Meywes, appeared in federal court on Monday. (Full story)

Morphine given

Bob Schindler on Monday commented about the facility she is in -- Hospice House Woodside -- saying, "I have a grave concern that they'll expedite the process to kill her with an overdose of morphine."

That triggered a response from the hospice, which has generally refused any comment on the case.

"We are not going to do anything to hasten or postpone natural death," said spokesman Mike Bell. "We are trying to provide comfort to the patient as well as the family."

Felos said morphine had been administered twice through a suppository since March 18 at what he said the hospice staff told him that is the "lowest possible dose."

Felos also countered accusations that a brain scan has never been performed on Terri Schiavo.

He said CAT scans of her brain were introduced in trials in 2000 and 2002, showing that her cerebral cortex was "gone."

Felos said Michael Schiavo decided to come forward with the autopsy plans for Terri Schiavo after "opponents to carrying out her wishes" suggested Michael Schiavo had an ulterior motive in his plans to cremate his wife.

CNN's Ed Henry and Bob Franken contributed to this report.


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