The Terri Schiavo Legacy ; Her Death Thursday Ends a Contentious Battle, but Ripple Effects Could Persist in Courts, Congress, and Personal Lives

By Linda Feldmann and Warren Richey writers of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, April 1, 2005 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The Terri Schiavo Legacy ; Her Death Thursday Ends a Contentious Battle, but Ripple Effects Could Persist in Courts, Congress, and Personal Lives


Linda Feldmann and Warren Richey writers of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


The passing of Terri Schiavo ends one of the most protracted and high-profile right-to-die cases in American history. But beyond the personal tragedy it represents, the case also adds fuel to an array of unresolved legal and political issues and sets the stage for contentious national debate for years to come.

Already, the case of the brain-damaged Florida woman - who died Thursday after 15 years in what doctors called a persistent vegetative state and almost 13 days after her feeding tube was removed - has spurred some states to accelerate legislation aimed at preventing the kind of intrafamily conflict that kept Mrs. Schiavo in legal limbo for seven years.

The US Congress is also ready to take a fresh look at end-of- life issues, even after polls showed many Americans opposed the intervention of Congress and President Bush into the Schiavo case last month. Members of Congress from both parties, some spurred by right-to-life sentiments, others by advocates for the disabled, say the question of who makes decisions in disputed right-to-die cases is worth another look on Capitol Hill.

On a personal level, the legal tug-of-war over Schiavo has forced Americans to confront the unthinkable by vividly illustrating the importance of a living will.

Part of the culture war

At heart, the Schiavo case represents the latest skirmish in the nation's culture war, already heated over abortion, gay marriage, and stem-cell research. Social conservatives have long sought to tip the balance on these issues through appointment of conservative judges - and, analysts say, one direct effect of Schiavo could be to inflame passions even more than expected over a US Supreme Court vacancy that could come soon. The high court declined to take up the Schiavo case three times within the past two weeks.

"The most significant aspect of [the Schiavo case] is that it's likely a stage-setter for a huge conflagration over the first Supreme Court nominee," says Marshall Wittmann, a senior fellow at the Democratic Leadership Council and former Christian Coalition official.

But the most surprising aspect of the case, Mr. Wittmann adds, is that it brought to light the simmering tensions within the Republican coalition between the limited-government activists and religious conservatives. High-profile economic conservatives such as Grover Norquist and Stephen Moore, who usually support President Bush and the congressional Republican leadership, criticized their unorthodox move to turn what is normally a state issue over to the federal courts in the Schiavo case.

On the day of Schiavo's death, however, Bush remained undeterred. "The essence of civilization is that the strong have a duty to protect the weak," he said. "In cases where there are serious doubts and questions, the presumption should be in favor of life."

Negative public reaction to Congress's intervention may nevertheless deter similar attempts to federalize a case like this in the future, analysts say.

"A good number of those who cast votes last time are going to be frightened the next time," says Douglas Kmiec, a constitutional law professor at Pepperdine Law School who is critical of the federal intervention in the Schiavo case. "The polling data is telling them that most people are not all on one side or at least not on their side. So they will be gun-shy."

Role of guardians at stake

While many Americans are opposed to government intervention in what they view as private medical decisions dealing with end-of- life issues, the Schiavo case has also raised concerns about the power of guardians and judges to end someone's life even when a patient's wishes remain a matter of dispute among family members.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

The Terri Schiavo Legacy ; Her Death Thursday Ends a Contentious Battle, but Ripple Effects Could Persist in Courts, Congress, and Personal Lives
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?