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Physician Who Examined Schiavo for Over 10 Hours—Critical of Autopsy Report

LifeSiteNews.com

CLEARWATER, Florida, June 20, 2005 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A neurologist who spent 10 hours examining Terri Schiavo while she was alive has issued a release criticizing the autopsy conclusions drawn by the independent medical examiner.

Dr. William Hammesfahr, nominated for a Nobel Prize for his work in Medicine, and a patent holder for a medicine to help people with brain injuries and stroke, released the following statement in response to the independent medical examiner’s autopsy conclusions:

“We have seen a lot on the autopsy of Terri Schindler Schiavo in recent days that I feel needs to be addressed,” Dr. Hammesfahr began. “To ignore these comments will allow future ‘Terri Schiavo’s’ to die needlessly after the wishes of clinicians and family are ignored.”

“The record must be set straight. As we noted in the press, there was no heart attack, or evident reason for this to have happened (and certainly not of Terri’s making). Unlike the constant drumbeat from the husband, his attorneys, and his doctors, the brain tissue was not dissolved, with a head of just spinal fluid. In fact, large areas were ‘relatively preserved.’”

“I have had a chance to look at Dr. Nelson’s analysis of the brain tissue, and essentially, as a clinician, these are my thoughts. (Neuropathologist Dr. Stephen Nelson performed the autopsy on Mrs. Schiavo’s central nervous system.) The autopsy results confirmed my opinion . . . that the frontal areas of the brains, the areas that deal with awareness and cognition were relatively intact.”

“To use Dr. Nelson’s words, ‘relatively preserved.’ In fact, the relay areas from the frontal and front temporal regions of the brain, to the spinal cord and the brain stem, by way of the basal ganglia, were preserved, thus the evident responses which she was able to express to her family and to the clinicians seeing her or viewing her videotape. The Spect scan confirmed these areas were functional and not scar tissue, and that was apparently also confirmed on Dr. Nelson’s review of the slides.”

Terri Schiavo “was a woman trapped in her body, similar to a child with cerebral palsy, and that was born out by the autopsy, showing greater injury in the motor and visual centers of the brain,” Hammesfahr continued. “Obviously, the pathologists comments that she could not see were not borne out by reality, and thus his assessment must represent sampling error. The videotapes clearly showed her seeing, and even Dr. Cranfoed, for the husband, commented to her that, when she could see the balloon, she could follow it with her eyes as per his request.”

“That she could not swallow was obviously not borne out by the reality that she was swallowing her saliva, about 1.5 liters per day of liquid, and the clinical swallowing tests done by Dr. Young and Dr. Carpenter. Thus, there appears to be some limitations to the clinical accuracy of an autopsy in evaluating function.”

“With respect to the issue of trauma, that certainly does not appear to be answered adequately,” Hammesfahr added. “Some of the types of trauma that are suspected were not adequately evaluated in this assessment. Interestingly, both myself and at least one neurologist for the husband testified to the presence of neck injuries. The issue of a forensic evaluation for trauma, is highly specialized. Hence the wish of the family to have observers which was refused by the examiner.”

“Ultimately, based on the clinical evidence and the autopsy results, an aware woman was killed.”

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