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The case of Theresa Marie Schiavo raises challenging legal and ethical issues, although the events of the case are not entirely novel. It is a well-settled principle under Florida law that individuals have a right to refuse life-sustaining medical treatment. After years of litigation, numerous courts have confirmed that removal of life support is legally appropriate under the facts of this case. Nevertheless, six days after Theresa's feeding tube was removed, the Florida legislature
opted to intervene in the final judicial decision by granting the Governor the authority to overrule the court's decision and to order the tube reinserted. These actions violate numerous Florida constitutional provisions, including the requirement of separation of powers, the provision guaranteeing individuals a right of privacy, and the due process clause. Apart from the legal issues, the ethical implications of such interventions present a frightening prospect for the future of patient autonomy. This is not the first time that a government has inteifered in a dispute over end-of-life care, and it will not be the last. In view of this reality, it is essential that individual choice remain the touchstone in end-oj-life decision making, and that courts, legislatures, and individuals do everything possible to prevent this very precious choice from being held hostage to the vicissitudes of political or moral change.

Recommended Citation

59 U. Miami L. Rev. 107 (2004)