The political fight also left thorny questions about the separation of powers and judicial independence that political analysts said could linger, possibly influencing the 2006 midterm elections and making bruising fights over the president's judicial nominations uglier.

Theresa Marie Schiavo, who grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and met her husband when they were students at Bucks County Community College in Pennsylvania, became -- ultimately -- the central figure in a vast debate about religion, life, medicine and ethics that swirled fiercely around her.

There was fierce disagreement on virtually every aspect of her case, well beyond the central question of whether her own wish would have been to live or die.

Doctors were divided about whether she was in a persistent vegetative state, with no chance of ever recovering, or if her diagnosis was the more hopeful prognosis of being "minimally conscious." Her husband and her parents feuded over basic questions of whether she had any awareness of her surroundings and situation, and whether any therapy could help her. As recently as this week, her parents insisted that she was communicative and responding to them.

Other disagreements were far more bitter and personal, with each side leveling charges that the other was motivated by money from a more than $1 million medical malpractice settlement 10 years ago. Less than $50,000 of that money remained by mid-March.

Terri Schiavo's parents also charged that Michael Schiavo wanted their daughter to die because he had moved on and begun a new life, fathering two children with a woman he intends to marry. At least two wealthy observers offered Michael Schiavo hefty sums -- $1 million in one instance, $10 million in another -- to divorce Terri Schiavo and allow her parents to become her guardians.

Michael Schiavo, who also faced repeated death threats, refused. He said he would not divorce his wife because he firmly believed that he was carrying out her true wishes, end-of-life options that he said they had discussed casually when they were a young couple with their future wide open.

"It's not about the money," he said. "This is about Terri. It's not about the Schindlers. It's not about the legislators. It's not about me. It's about what Terri wanted."

For Terri Schiavo's family, there was no reconciliation in her death. Michael Schiavo's lawyers said this week that a full autopsy would show what one of his attorneys described as the "full and massive extent of the damage to Ms. Schiavo's brain" and to counter allegations that she was communicative in her final days.

Michael Schiavo also intends to have his wife's remains cremated, as he said she wished, and that her ashes would be interred in his family's burial plot in Pennsylvania. Terri Schiavo's parents had a different wish, that their daughter would have a Roman Catholic funeral and be buried in Florida, near them.