Association of American Physicians & Surgeons

The Voice for Private Physicians Since 1943

1601 N. Tucson Blvd  Suite 9

Tucson AZ  85716

www.aapsonline.org     

 

3/28/2005

 

Full autopsy needed in Schiavo case; please contact the M.E.

 

It is absolutely essential that there be a full postmortem examination of Terri Schiavo to learn the truth about her medical condition.  Yet Judge Greer and Michael Schiavo initially announced their intention to cremate Terri’s body and thereby destroy all the evidence. 

 

Perhaps feeling the public outrage, pro-death attorney George Felos announced Monday evening that Michael had agreed to an autopsy after all.  However, AAPS members have informed us that they are confident this would be only a limited autopsy designed to reinforce the diagnosis of a vegetative state and shrunken brain.  George Felos disingenously avoided a pointed question by a reporter as to whether the autopsy would include a full body scan.

 

The Medical Examiner John Thogmartin needs to hear from physicians and the public to ensure that the medical truth is determined.  Please review and send a copy of this letter, and call and email also. 

 

For further information about Terri Schiavo visit http://www.aapsonline.org/ethics/terris.htm .

 

 

Jon R. Thogmartin, M.D.

District Chief Medical Examiner
10900 Ulmerton Road

Largo, FL 33778
(727) 582-6800
(727) 582-6820 (fax)

mailto: [email protected]

 

Dear Mr. Thogmartin,


If and when Terri Schiavo dies, important medical evidence would be lost by a cremation or limited autopsy.  There are persistent claims that her medical condition was misrepresented and that she even had broken bones reflecting possible abuse.  There is, or will be, civil litigation for which a complete postmortem examination is essential evidence.  Terri has been the subject of a congressional subpoena, and legislation of great concern to the public.  Federal or state investigations into this matter, pending the ongoing development of facts, remain a real possibility.  It is plainly
“in the public interest to determine the identification of or cause or manner of death of the deceased or to obtain evidence necessary for forensic examination,” and hence a full postmortem examination is essential.  Fla. Stat. § 406.11(2)(a).

 

There is an “unusual circumstance” in this case under Fla. Stat. § 406.11(1)(a)(8) that also triggers the need for a full postmortem examination.  The cause of Terri Schiavo’s initial collapse that damaged her brain has never been fully determined, and that must be considered a proximate cause of her eventual death.  Allegations of great concern to the public remain unresolved.

 

Despite the overriding public interest in preserving evidence concerning Terri Schiavo’s condition, it has been reported by the press that Michael Schiavo intends to authorize a limited autopsy or cremate her immediately upon her death.

 

Please do not limit your examination to a limited autopsy.  The medical examiner's office needs to perform a full investigation and complete postmortem examination to determine both (1) the immediate cause of death and (2) the proximate cause of death including any injuries inducing the damage of her brain years ago.

 

According to the Medical Examiner's department policy posted at: http://www.co.pinellas.fl.us/forensics/policy/policystatement.htm#CA , the medical examiner must approve or deny all such requests.  Additionally, Florida Statute § 406.11(1) says, “the medical examiner … shall determine the cause of death … (c) When a body is to be cremated, dissected, or buried at sea.” 

 

 It has been alleged that her original “event” was possibly caused by never-investigated abuse, an issue that can only be resolved with a thoroughly postmortem examination.  There is tremendous public interest in discovering the truth about Terri Schiavo’s medical condition and destruction of her body would only serve to increase public alarm about this case.

 

Judge Greer has not allowed a MRI or PET Scan. An MRI may yield benefits, in addition to an autopsy, particularly for small, old injuries to ligaments and muscles that would be consistent with a trauma that  might have occurred.  Judge Greer cannot relieve this office of its statutory duty to make a full and independent examination into the medical condition of Terri Schiavo.

 

There is no reason not to due a full postmortem examination in this case of enormous public interest.  We respectfully urge you to fulfill your professional duty to discover the truth here.

 

Please act now to assure no authorization is given for a cremation or limited autopsy here without a complete investigation and full examination.

 

Sincerely,