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Right to Die

May 13, 2005 • Volume 15, Issue 18
Is it too easy to remove life support?
By Kenneth Jost

Introduction

Brain-damaged Terri Schiavo, pictured with her mother in 2003, died on March 31 after her feeding tube was disconnected, ending a bitter legal battle between her parents and her estranged husband Michael.  (Getty Images)
Brain-damaged Terri Schiavo, pictured with her mother in 2003, died on March 31 after her feeding tube was disconnected, ending a bitter legal battle between her parents and her estranged husband Michael. (Getty Images)

Terri Schiavo lay in a “persistent vegetative state” for 15 years until she died on March 31 after hospice staff removed her life-sustaining feeding tube. Schiavo's case touched off a wrenching, nationwide debate that continues in political, legal and medical circles over when, if ever, to withdraw life support from patients unable to express their own wishes. Many advocates and experts used the case to emphasize the need to write a “living will” and designate a “health-care proxy” to help make such decisions, but only a small minority of Americans have taken either step. Some in Congress want to make it harder to remove life support. But others say that no legal changes are needed and the issue is, in any event, for the states, not the federal government. Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to hear the Bush administration's attempt to effectively thwart an Oregon law legalizing physician-assisted suicide — a law twice approved by the state's voters but strongly opposed by right-to-life and disability-rights groups.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Right to Die
May 13, 2005  Right to Die
Sep. 05, 1997  Caring for the Dying
May 05, 1995  Assisted Suicide Controversy
Feb. 21, 1992  Assisted Suicide
Sep. 28, 1990  Right to Die: Medical, Legal & Moral Issues
Feb. 24, 1984  Medical Ethics in Life and Death
Jun. 21, 1972  Medical Ethics
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Civil Rights and Civil Liberty Issues
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