Biblical Biopolitics: Judicial Process, Religious Rhetoric, Terri Schiavo and Beyond
59 Pages Posted: 10 Aug 2005
This Article begins by reviewing the application of the autonomy principle in persistent vegetative state (PVS) cases as it has become solidified over the last thirty years in both legal precedent and bioethical theory. The Article then moves from this doctrinal foundation to a close and comprehensive examination of the judicial proceedings in the Terri Schiavo case, including how the autonomy principle operated in this instance. In addition to this judicial process analysis, the Article also empirically documents the religiously conservative activism that brought this case international attention and unprecedented involvement by all three branches of government at both the federal and state level. In response to widespread confusion, even among the legal community, and outright hostility by some towards the judiciary, this Article concludes that the law did not fail Mrs. Schiavo, and on the contrary, the judicial process in this instance worked remarkably well.
This Article, however, moves beyond a mere description of the intricacies of the Schiavo case to examine the larger culture war context. These later sections of the Article normatively analyze the irresponsible and inappropriate use of abortion-politics rhetoric, as well as the misguided post-Schiavo legislative agenda that constitute what this Article coins Biblical BioPolitics. Ultimately, this Article concludes that the actions of certain politicized religious organizations, which the Article identifies and describes, portend destructive, long-term implications for both public discourse and public policy in a pluralistic society facing increasingly complex dilemmas at the intersection of law, medicine and ethics. A clear understanding of the current legal regime vis-a-vis end-of-life/PVS situations and an analysis of the Biblical BioPolitics that threaten this regime is, therefore, crucial for legal and health care professionals and all of us who may one day find ourselves as patients.
Keywords: Schiavo, Biopolitics, Religious, PVS, Autonomy
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