Medical Examiner: "We are Investigating the Cause of Death as Mandated by Florida Law and for No Other Reason. "
PINELLAS PARK - In a surprise move earlier this week, Michael Schiavo's attorney announced that once his brain-damaged wife Terri dies, an autopsy will be done to dismiss any rumors about her condition.
"Mr. Schiavo has requested the Pinellas County medical examiner to perform an autopsy on Mrs. Schiavo. He has requested this very strongly; he believes it is important to know the full extent of damage of Mrs. Schiavo's brain," George Felos stated.
However, Action News has learned that it was not Michael Schiavo's decision to make; the medical examiner had already decided to perform the autopsy and he was surprised by Felos' statement.
"We are not doing the autopsy because of a request coming from Michael Schiavo. We are investigating the cause of death as mandated by Florida law and for no other reason. Family requests are immaterial in that determination. Our involvement is independent from the wishes of the next of kin," stated Bill Pellan, director of investigations for the Pinellas/Pasco Medical Examiner's Office.
Felos was unavailable to comment on camera, but in a written reply, he said, "We dispute that and stand by my statement. We requested an autopsy from the county medical examiner and we understand the M.E. is not bound to honor a family's request. We were informed by the me they would perform an autopsy pursuant to its statutory duty."
By Florida law, there are 12 criteria in order for the M.E.'s office to get involved. Out of the 12, potentially four apply to Terri's case: planned cremation, allegations of criminal violence, suspicious or unusual circumstance, and accidental injury.
Pellan told Action News that the M.E.'s office was not just getting involved because there was a request to cremate Terri's body. He confirmed there are other factors, but would not specify what they were; he would only say that Michael Schiavo did not object to the autopsy, and even said it may help.
Monday's announcement was something that Terri's parents had been waiting for for years. Since Terri collapsed some 15 years ago, the Schindlers have always suspected foul play.
The M.E.'s office confirmed they have received numerous e-mails and phone calls asking for an investigation, but that those also had no bearing on the decision.
Earlier this week, Michael's brother Brian said that the rumors and allegations have been tearing Michael apart.
"He cannot believe that this is being made out to be a murder. He said, 'Brian, all I am doing is doing what Terri asked me to do,' " Brian said.
The results of the autopsy, whenever Terri dies, will be made public.