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May 18, 2005

Ethics, the Constitution, and the Dying Process: The Case of Theresa Marie Schiavo

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, DC.

JAMA. 2005;293(19):2403-2407. doi:10.1001/jama.293.19.2403

Federal and state courts have reached a broad consensus on matters of death and dying since the seminal cases of Karen Ann Quinlan in 19761 and Nancy Cruzan in 1990.2 So too has there been substantial consensus in the bioethics literature.3 Courts and scholars have affirmed a person’s right to refuse life-sustaining treatment and concluded that this right remains intact even if the person is no longer able to speak for herself.4 Near relatives and the courts should adopt the same course of action the person would have chosen if competent.5