The Schiavo case is extraordinary in many regards. It is extraordinary in that it has garnered thorough national media attention, has worked its way through dozens of courtrooms, and has captured the attention of political bodies that rarely involve themselves in events dealing with the welfare of a single individual. It is a rare example of a end-of-life case where family members disagree substantially as to the appropriate course of treatment.
However, the practice of withholding treatment from the terminally ill is not a rare occurrence in the United States. In fact, it is commonplace. A 1990 study by the American Hospital Association estimated that of the 1.3 million individuals who die in a hospital each year, approximately 70 percent of them die when life-sustaining treatment is withheld.
On this page, three perspectives—from individuals in the disability rights, pro-life, and right-to-die movements—present their views of both how the society should approach both the Schiavo case and the dilemmas that the families of terminally ill patients encounter.
—Matthew S. Meisel ’07