After 13 days without food and hydration Terri Schiavo died in a Florida hospice. Seven years of court battles, including six unsuccessful attempts to have the Supreme Court intervene, resulted in a highly divisive media frenzy over this reputedly shy woman who has been unresponsive for 15 years. The Vatican likened her death to “capital punishment for an innocent person”; her parents called removal of the feeding tube “judicial homicide.”
In this highly emotional atmosphere it is likely that the legacy of this case will be attempts to restrict right-to-die laws in the 50 states despite support from 70% of Americans to remove Schiavo’s life support. Two states, California and Vermont, are considering the passage of laws like the Oregon Death with Dignity Act and the U.S. attorney-general is challenging that now 8-year-old law in the Supreme Court in a case to be heard in the Fall. Our work in the U.S. right-to-die movement is cut out for us in the next few months.