From Cruzan to Schiavo: Similar Bedfellows in Fact and at Law

Edward Larson

Pepperdine University School of Law


Constitutional Commentary, Vol. 22, pp. 405-417, 2005

Whatever else may be said about it, Terri Schiavo's death was legal. It scrupulously complied with Florida state law. Under similar facts, a similar result would occur under the laws of most (if not all) states. Further, those state laws are constitutional. They comply with the letter and spirit of the constitutional regime outlined in the key United States Supreme Court decision dealing with the issue of terminating life-sustaining medical treatment for incapacitated patients, Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health. Indeed, Terri Schiavo's case cannot be materially distinguished from Nancy Cruzan's case. Reaching a different result in the Schiavo case would require that Cruzan be ignored, overruled, or distinguished to the point that its meaning would be reversed. This article examines how the result in Schiavo inevitably follows from the reasoning in Cruzan. Pro-life reformers intent on preventing future Schiavo-type deaths must change both (1) state laws like that of the Florida Health Care Advance Directive Act and (2) the larger body of common and constitutional law in which they are situated.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 14

Keywords: Terri Schiavo, Nancy Cruzan

JEL Classification: K19, K39

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Date posted: October 17, 2009  

Suggested Citation

Larson, Edward, From Cruzan to Schiavo: Similar Bedfellows in Fact and at Law (2005). Constitutional Commentary, Vol. 22, pp. 405-417, 2005. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1489156

Contact Information

Edward J. Larson (Contact Author)
Pepperdine University School of Law ( email )
24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90263
United States
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