Schiavo and its (In)Significance
John A. Robertson
University of Texas Law School
U of Texas Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 86
Stetson Law Review, Vol. 35, pp. 101-121, 2005
The question of removing Teri Schiavo's feeding tube electrified the country in March, 2005. Florida, like most states, had adopted a substituted judgment paradigm for decisionmaking for incompetent patients. Under that approach the case appears to have been correctly decided, and should have been resolved after final review by the Florida courts. By reframing the case as one of starvation of a conscious person with a brain injury, lawyers for Teri Schiavo's parents were able to generate massive public support from right-to-life and disability rights groups. This led to additional litigation and both state and national legislative attempts to overturn the results of an on-going judicial proceeding. These events demonstrate both the strengths and weaknesses of the substituted judgment paradigm, and the power of the right-to-life movement in judicial and policy decisions at the end of life. In the end the Schiavo case will have little significance in changing the law of end-of-life care. But it does show the influence that "culture of life" forces will exert on the legal and policy issues raised by biotechnology.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 23
Keywords: medical ethics, constutional law, end-of-life, Schiavo
Date posted: March 30, 2005
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