Critical Essay: Musings on the Need to Convince Some People with Disabilities that End-of-Life Decision-Making Advocates are Not Out to Get Them
43 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2005 Last revised: 13 Apr 2008
As others have noted, the importance of the Terri Schiavo case is not legal; the various Schiavo opinions broke no new legal ground other than the constitutional questions raised when legislatures began intervening to attempt to change the outcome of the end-of-life decision-making rulings. Rather, it was activism by certain disability rights and vitalist groups that so caught the attention of the public, the politicians and the media. Focusing upon the imagery and framing utilized by vitalist activists, disabled persons saw themselves reflected in Ms. Schiavo's position, despite the fact that Ms. Schiavo lay in a persistent vegetative state. Their fear is the type of fear that those who believe in the right to self-determination in end-of-life medical decision-making must address to avoid retreat from the principles eloquently explained in the landmark case of In re Quinlan. This article traces the development of the law and politics from Quinlan to Cruzan to Schiavo as seen through the objections of persons with disabilities. It concludes by urging that disabled persons should be drawn into reasoned conversation to a greater extent so that they may see that those who supported the result in Schiavo are not out to get people with disabilities and that decisions like Schiavo in fact serve us all, including those with disabilities.
Keywords: End-of-life decision-making, disability
JEL Classification: K13, K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation