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Schiavo kin remain divided after her death

Medical examiner completes autopsy


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Suzanne Vitadamo, Terri Schiavo's sister, speaks on behalf of the family Thursday.
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Terri Schiavo's brother and sister speak on behalf of their parents.

Fight continues even after Schiavo's death. CNN's Mary Snow reports.

Newly released video shows Schiavo in her hospice in 2002.
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PINELLAS PARK, Florida (CNN) -- As medical officials wrapped up Terri Schiavo's autopsy, her relatives continued on disparate paths with plans for her burial and legacy.

Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, and siblings have accepted her death Thursday from lack of nourishment and fluids as "God's will," their lawyer David Gibbs said.

The Schindlers plan to launch a campaign to change state laws so people with severe brain damage, such as Schiavo's, meet a different fate, he said.

Schiavo's body will undergo an autopsy. In Largo, District Medical Examiner Jon R. Thogmartin led the autopsy team, which included a neuropathologist, according to a news release from the Pinellas-Pasco County Medical Examiner's Office.

The autopsy included X-rays in addition to "routine forensic autopsy procedures."

The autopsy findings may not be available for several weeks, but the medical examiner's office said Schiavo's body could be released Friday.

The Schindlers and Schiavos have separate plans for her memory and remains.

As approved by a Florida judge March 7, Michael Schiavo will have his wife's body cremated and interred in a family plot in Pennsylvania, where they were born and were married in November 1984.

Pasco-Pinellas Circuit Judge George Greer denied the request by Schiavo's parents to have her buried in Florida without being cremated. They are Roman Catholic and argued that cremation is inconsistent with their religion. The Vatican lifted its ban on cremation in 1963.

Terri Schiavo's death nearly two weeks after her feeding tube was removed put an end to seven years of caustic legal battles, but not the animosity between the families.

Anger persists

Terri Schiavo's in-laws have said they remain angry and reconciliation is possible only after an apology from the Schindlers. They said the Schindler family characterized Michael Schiavo as a killer and impeded his attempts to allow her to die with dignity. (Feud)

Brian Schiavo, one of Michael Schiavo's brothers, berated the Schindlers and their lead lawyer.

"If you don't think my brother has been vilified from Day One, then I tell you you'd better study the record ... he's been nothing but be accused of being a murderer," Brian Schiavo said.

He had these words for the Schindlers' lawyer: "David Gibbs better get his act together, because I'm getting sick and tired of everything being twisted and turned."

Gibbs said the Schindler family was focused on Terri Schiavo, not Michael.

"The family is concerned about Terri," he said. "They're concerned about her legacy. I think it's distasteful that Michael Schiavo seems fixated on himself."

John Centonze, the brother of Michael Schiavo's live-in girlfriend, said reconciliation was not likely between the two families, who fought over who should care for the disabled woman and how.

"I just think there's been too much damage done, too many toes stepped on, too many hearts broken," Centonze said.

Thursday night, Bob Schindler attended a memorial service for his daughter in Florida.

He thanked the family's supporters, and said they "got us through some real tough times. I will never forget y'all. I just thank you so much," he said. "And Terri thanks you."

Years-long dispute

She was 41 and had been incapacitated since 1990 after suffering cardiac arrest that left her with permanent brain damage.

Since 1998, Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers had been locked in bitter court disputes. He maintained his wife had told him she would not want to be kept alive by artificial means, while the Schindlers argued that she could significantly improve with intense therapy. (Schiavo case timeline)

During the years, courts consistently ruled in favor of Michael Schiavo, Terri Schiavo's legal guardian. He was at her bedside when she died, his lawyer George Felos said. (Bedside scene)

CNN's Rich Phillips, David Mattingly, Susan Candiotti, Randi Kaye and Alessio Vinci contributed to this report.


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