Life, Death, and Advocacy: Rules of Procedure in the Contested End-of-Life Case

52 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2005


The end-of-life case comes in many forms. It can involve disputes over a child's medical treatment, the care of an elderly patient, or the decision to terminate life-sustaining treatment for an adult rendered incompetent by illness or accident. In this Article, I explore the uses and abuses of various rules of procedure in contested end-of-life cases from the perspective of both judges and lawyers. Using the recent high profile case concerning Terri Schiavo, I first explore the important role procedure plays in the end-of-life case. Next, I address the ethical dangers that can arise when advocates feel compelled to misuse procedural devices. Finally, I consider procedural rules from the perspective of judges handling end-of-life disputes. I argue that judges in these highly emotional cases should resist the temptation to craft ad hoc procedural rules. Instead, judges should follow neutral, generally applicable procedural rules that apply to most civil litigation matters.

JEL Classification: K19, K32, K41

Suggested Citation

Allen, Michael Patrick, Life, Death, and Advocacy: Rules of Procedure in the Contested End-of-Life Case. Stetson Law Review, Vol. 34, Fall 2004, Available at SSRN:

Michael Patrick Allen (Contact Author)

Stetson University - College of Law ( email )

1401 61st Street South
Gulfport, FL 33707
United States

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