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Terri Schiavo cremated amid family feud
Updated: 2005-04-03 10:17

Terri Schiavo's body was cremated Saturday as disagreements continued between her husband and her parents, who were unable to have their own independent expert observe her autopsy.

Terri Schiavo, center, is shown in this undated photo from the Schindler family, posing with her father Bob, right, and mother Mary, left. Schiavo suffered brain damage in 1990 when her heart stopped briefly from a chemical imbalance believed to have been brought on by an eating disorder. Her feeding tube was removed by court order Friday, March 18, 2005. [AP]

The cremation was carried out according to a court order issued Tuesday establishing that Michael Schiavo had the right to make such decisions, said his lawyer, George Felos. He said plans for burying her ashes in Pennsylvania, where she grew up, had not yet been completed.

Terri Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, had wanted to bury their daughter in Pinellas County so they could visit her grave.

Terri Schiavo, 41, died Thursday after the removal of the feeding tube that had kept her alive since 1990, when she suffered brain damage that court-appointed doctors determined had placed her in a persistent vegetative state. Her parents had fought in court to keep her alive, disputing the doctors' opinions and saying there was hope of improvement.

Michael Schiavo has not spoken publicly since his wife's death, but Felos said Saturday: "He's holding up. It's very difficult for him."

Michael Schiavo is required to tell his wife's parents of any memorial services he plans for Terri Schiavo and where her ashes are interred.

The Schindlers plan to have their own memorial service Tuesday at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church in Gulfport.

The Schindlers had sought to have independent medical experts observe their daughter's autopsy at the Pinellas County Medical Examiner's office, but the agency refused their request, family attorneys David Gibbs III and Barbara Weller said Saturday.

The autopsy was completed Friday, the day after Terri Schiavo died, and results are not expected for several weeks.

Representatives of the medical examiner's office did not return a call seeking comment Saturday. The examiner's office has said it would conduct routine examinations and look for any evidence of what might have caused her 1990 collapse.

The Schindlers have accused Michael Schiavo of abusing his wife, a charge he vehemently denies.

Over the years, the couple have sought independent investigation of their daughter's condition and what caused it. Abuse complaints to state social workers were ruled unfounded — although one investigation remains open — and the Pinellas state attorney's office did not turn up evidence of abuse in one brief probe of the case.

Gibbs said the medical examiner's videotape, pictures and tissue samples from the autopsy could be reviewed by other experts if the family asks. While the autopsy report will be a public document, images will not be made public under a 2001 law passed after the death of race car driver Dale Earnhardt.

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