Special Article
December 12/26, 2005

The American Public and the Terri Schiavo Case

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Mass (Dr Blendon and Mr Benson); and ICR/International Communications Research, Media, Pa (Ms Herrmann).


Copyright 2005 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.2005

Arch Intern Med. 2005;165(22):2580-2584. doi:10.1001/archinte.165.22.2580

  An important question for physicians in the aftermath of the Terri Schiavo case is whether the effort of elected officials to intervene was a one-time anomaly or signals a future trend of elected officials being involved in cases where patients are in a vegetative or long-term comatose state. To try to answer this question, we used results from 12 national opinion surveys conducted in March and April 2005, when the Schiavo case was being debated. A review of these survey results showed that efforts by elected politicians to intervene in the Schiavo case were opposed by the majority of Americans. However, the public was more divided on the question of whether Schiavo’s feeding tube should be removed. Opposition to removing Schiavo’s feeding tube was associated with opposition to abortion. The results suggest that issues involved in cases like Schiavo’s are not likely to disappear from the political agenda.