WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (search), a surgeon who had questioned Terri Schiavo's (search) diagnosis during the intense national debate on whether to remove her feeding tube, said the autopsy documenting her severe brain damage brings "a very sad chapter to a close."
"She had devastating brain damage, and with that the chapter is closed," Frist said Thursday on ABC's "Good Morning America."
Frist, R-Tenn., said he never made his own diagnosis but did argue there wasn't enough information about Schiavo's condition to justify allowing her husband to remove her feeding tube against her parents' wishes.
"I raised the question, 'Is she in a persistent vegetative state or not?' I never made the diagnosis, never said that she was not. I did say that certain tests should be performed to determine that before starving her to death," Frist said in the interview.
• Read the autopsy report (pdf)
In March, Frist and other Republicans pushed through unprecedented emergency legislation, signed by President Bush, aimed at prolonging Schiavo's life by allowing the case to be reviewed by federal courts. But federal courts rejected the parents' request to have her feeding tube reinserted.
Polls found a majority of Americans opposed to federal involvement and the issue contributed to a drop in approval ratings for the Republican-controlled Congress.
Debating the emergency legislation on the Senate floor, Frist questioned the diagnosis of the court-appointed doctors, referring to video footage provided by her family that seemed to show Schiavo responding to people around her.
"I question it based on a review of the video footage. ... And that footage, to me, depicted something very different than persistent vegetative state," Frist said at the time.
Other doctors said her reactions were automatic responses and not evidence of consciousness.
The autopsy by a medical examiner in Florida, released Wednesday, showed irreversible brain damage, consistent with a persistent vegetative state.
"The diagnosis they made is exactly right. It's the pathology, I'll respect that. I think its time to move on," Frist said on CBS' "The Early Show."