Terri Schiavo Five Years On
5 Years After Schiavo, Few Make End-Of-Life Plans
Matt Sedensky, Associated Press (March 30, 2010)
Five years ago today, Terri Schiavo died in Florida. March 31, 2005. I can’t believe that five years have already elapsed, in part because I was in the middle of finishing my Ph.D. dissertation on the dead body and also because the chapter I was working on dealt with Schiavo’s case. I had already decided to write on the right-to-die issues surrounding Terri Schiavo (in 2003, actually) but then events took a turn and the entirety of America watched her death unfold.
There is a lot more to say about Terri Schiavo and the court case(s) which surrounded her eventual death. No other human death has ever been so litigated in the American court system. In place of an indulgently long essay, here is an extremely useful Schiavo case timeline put together by the University of Miami Ethics Program.
And now, five years later, it’s hard to know how anything has really changed as it regards End-of-Life issues. What I do know is that the political battle which the Schiavo case caused has gotten less media attention but it remains a constant battle all the same.
More than anything what I think the Schiavo case demonstrated was the overwhelming sense amongst many Americans that they should be able to die as they wanted without governmental intervention. These sentiments made a mess of supposedly clear cut political ideologies, so much so that many conservatives and liberals found an issue upon which they agreed. Pro-life conservatives remained the most vocally opposed to letting Terri Schiavo die and that point has not changed.
This is death in the 21st century. And it isn’t going to get any politically simpler.