Death Ends Legal Struggle Over Fate Of Terri Schiavo
Spencer Platt  /  Getty Images
Supporters of Terri Schiavo grieve outside the Woodside Hospice in Pinellas Park, Fl., after Terri Schiavo, the brain damaged Florida woman, died on Thursday. 
By Correspondent
NBC News
updated 3/31/2005 3:28:32 PM ET 2005-03-31T20:28:32

The debate over Terri Schiavo's life and death is not over with her passing Thursday morning.

NBC News' Mark Potter, who has followed this case for more than a decade and has been reporting from outside her hospice for the past two weeks, reports on how the bitterness between the two sides will likely persist, even after her passing.

What is the mood at the hospice?
The mood outside of the hospice is one of solemnity, as well as anger and disappointment. Brother Paul O’Donnell announced the news of her passing to a somber crowd. 

In addition to sadness at her death, there is a sense of anger because many people here just cannot believe that despite the efforts of Congress, the president, the Florida legislature, and the Florida governor, Terri Schiavo has died. Most people here are blaming the judiciary. 

What is the next big issue? The question of an autopsy?
An autopsy will be performed. That was announced a couple of days ago by George Felos, the attorney for Michael Schiavo, Terri Schiavo’s husband. It will be performed by the chief medical advisor for Pinellas County.

The attorney for Terri Schiavo’s parents welcomes the autopsy. But, he hopes that also present will be someone who specializes in abuse-related forensics to answer the question of whether Terri may have suffered physical abuse at the time of her collapse in 1990, an allegation categorically denied by Michael Schiavo.

This tragedy has been marked by bitterness on all sides. Can you speak to that issue and whether or not those differences will subside now or are likely to become more marked?
The bitterness continues even with Terri Schiavo’s death.

The supporters of the parents and Terri’s brother and sister bitterly claim that they were not allowed to be with her at the time of her death. They also are expected to argue over the details of her funeral and burial. This fight among the family has been played out in court and in public for more than a decade. And there is no let-up in sight.  

Was there any sense of peace at her passing?
If there was, it wasn’t evident to us. The bitterness outside the hospice continues. The finger pointing continues. There was genuine sadness among some of the supporters that we saw here. But, again, it was tinged with anger. It appears that the conflict among members of the family will likely continue.

How will the images from the different sides of the conflict carry the issues on?
This conflict and the issues raised by it will continue on long past Terri Schiavo’s death and are considered to be her legacy by many.

Questions of guardianship, living wills, constitutionality, the rights and responsibility of the judiciary, the legislature, and the executive branch – all of these issues have arisen because of the circumstances surrounding a massively disabled woman lying in a bed, unable to speak for herself.

All of these issues will continue long past the funeral.

Mark Potter is an NBC News' correspondent.


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