Collateral Damage: The Aftermath of the Political Culture Wars in Schiavo
31 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2005 Last revised: 27 Nov 2008
Theresa Marie Schiavo died a celebrity at the age of 42 in Pinellas Park, Florida, in early 2005. She never sought the public spotlight; she never even knew she was a celebrity. She became a celebrity, one of the best-known figures in bioethics, because of politics. This Article examines the politics surrounding her death and draws some conclusions about the aftermath for those left behind in the America Ms. Schiavo departed.
The lessons of Schiavo are mixed. It unquestionably will impact end-of-life decisionmaking in America for years to come, in at least one positive but mostly negative ways. Both individuals and individual cases will be affected, and the general tone and pattern of end-of-life decisionmaking will change. Even beyond the realm of end-of-life decisionmaking law, the politics of Schiavo, for better or worse, can be seen as an example of a more general politicization of bioethics. Finally, Schiavo highlights some major lessons to be learned about the functioning of our American constitutional republican form of government.
Keywords: Persistent vegetative state, advance directives, end-of-life decision-making
JEL Classification: K13, K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation