Life, Death (Panels), and the Body Politic

23 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2010 Last revised: 13 May 2014

See all articles by Joshua E. Perry

Joshua E. Perry

Indiana University - Kelley School of Business - Department of Business Law

Jeffrey P. Bishop

Saint Louis University

Date Written: March 25, 2010


In this timely and provocative essay, the authors argue that concerns about government intervention at the end-of-life in the form of “death panels” articulated by those on the political right is at the same time both nonsensical and natural, given the overt politicization of life and death in the United States. The irony, of course, is that it was the political right that most recently and dramatically fueled the government intervention in the case of Terri Schiavo. The unfortunate consequence of such governmental and political encroachment into life - no longer a bioethics, but a biopolitics - is that the intensely private moment of our death, when we are supposed to be surrounded by our friends and family, has become increasingly difficult – and susceptible to the sort of government intervention lampooned by the “death panel” discussion.

Employing a variety of legal and philosophical methods of interpretation, the authors build upon their previous multidisciplinary work across the legal, medical, and philosophical fields to argue that both the right and the left along the political and social spectrum have participated in this politicization of living and dying with consequences that are potentially dire for patients and their families.

Keywords: Bioethics, Biopolitics, End-of-Life, Death Panels, Schiavo, Palin

Suggested Citation

Perry, Joshua E. and Bishop, Jeffrey P., Life, Death (Panels), and the Body Politic (March 25, 2010). Syracuse Law Review, Vol. 61, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN:

Joshua E. Perry (Contact Author)

Indiana University - Kelley School of Business - Department of Business Law ( email )

Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

Jeffrey P. Bishop

Saint Louis University ( email )

220 North Grand Boulevard
St. Louis, MO 63103
United States

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