Congress and Terri Schiavo: A Primer on the American Constitutional Order?

52 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2006


Much of America seemed to be captivated - or horrified - last year by the saga concerning Theresa Marie Schiavo and her approach to the end-of-life. One of the most unusual events in a story filled with them was Congressional passage of Public Law 109-03, An Act for the Relief of the Parents of Theresa Marie Schiavo. The Act, which provided a federal forum to consider the constitutional issues related to the removal of Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube, was widely derided, a position with which I agree as a policy matter. However, there were also strident assertions that this Congressional action was unconstitutional. These arguments variously contended that the Act violated principles of federalism, separation of powers and/or constitutional protections of individual liberties.

This Article considers the claim that the Act violated the structural constitutional principles concerning separation of powers and federalism. I ultimately conclude that it does not. In fact, I assert that understanding why the Act is consistent with the Constitution tells one a great deal about the American constitutional order.

Keywords: Separation of Powers, Federalism, end of life decision-making

JEL Classification: K19, K40

Suggested Citation

Allen, Michael Patrick, Congress and Terri Schiavo: A Primer on the American Constitutional Order?. West Virginia Law Review, Vol. 108, pp. 309-360, 2006, 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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