Essay Sample on The Medical Case Study of Terri Schiavo

Published: 2023-10-10
Essay Sample on The Medical Case Study of Terri Schiavo
Essay type:  Rhetorical analysis essays
Categories:  Medicine Euthanasia Case study Ethical dilemma
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1801 words
16 min read

The story of Terri Schiavo is one that captured the attention of the nation in a way that is reminiscent of Karen Ann Quinlan in 1970 and Nancy Beth Cruzan in 1980. All of these people were young women whose lives were tragically put to an end by traumatic events that left them in what we now call a permanent state. The bioethical battle of Schiavo raged privately for decades and later would burst into public awareness and more questions in the minds of the people precisely on whether it was ethically right to stop the life of a person no matter the condition they are in. The Schiavo case involved 14 appeals and numerous motions in parliament, and it brought highly visible activism such as the pro-life movement, the right-to-die group, and disability rights groups (Fletcher, 2005). The act to end the life of Schiavo was passive euthanasia, which involves withholding treatment or supportive measures where in this case, was to remove feeding tubes without the consent of the patient.

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Terri Schiavo was born in lower Moreland Township in the county of Montgomery on the 3rd of December 1963 (Fletcher, 2005). Still, at a young age, the girl struggled with obesity losing a lot of pounds. Schiavo's problem started when she collapsed one evening, and the cause of her collapse was determined to be cardiac arrest. After she was revived, it was found that she was unconscious and quadriplegic. For her to continue surviving, an artificial nutrition mechanism had to be put in place, and the doctor decided to use feeding tubes to keep her alive.

The end-of-life decision-making issues involved in the Terri Schiavo case.

The parents of Terri Schiavo were highly opposed to any decision that would end the life of their child, which resulted in a legal battle between them and Schiavo's husband (Brody, 2010). During the case, malpractices were argued against Terri's obstetrician, who was accused of failing to take the medical history of Schiavo, which might have revealed an eating disorder that caused her to be bulimic. The legal battle was highly publicized and prolong a series of challenges, which ultimately brought the attention of state and federal politicians, including President George W. Bush. During the case battle, doctors had attempted to perform occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, and other experimental therapy to reinstate her, which bared no fruits (Fletcher, 2005). Micheal won the number of court cases, even the sixth circuit of Florida, where the court declared that Schiavo would not have the wish to continue in life-prolonging measures. Schiavo tubes were removed on the 14th of April 2001 for the first time but were later restored. Several appeals, including the president's signing legislation moving the case to federal court in an attempt to save Schiavo, were lost. Schiavo's feeding tube was disconnected after the court instructed them the hospital facility she was on the 18th of March 2005 and Shiavo later died after the three days (Fletcher, 2005).

The Role of the Healthcare and Hospital Ethics Committee in Schiavo's case.

Health care ethics committees address the legal-ethical issues that arise during the patient's care. They offer objective counsel when dealing with challenging health care issues. Their work should be to enhance and not to replace patient, family, and physician relationships. Ethics committees concern themselves with the theme of morality, patient autonomy, legislation, and state's interest (Pozgar, 2012). For an ethical committee to be successful, it should be comprised of a wide range of community leaders, religious groups, and medical practitioners. In the case of Terri Schiavo, the role of the medical committee was to offer support by guiding the family in making decisions that are of best interest to the patient. They were also to review cases as requested by the family and offer them the necessary legal support. The committee had the mandate to assist the Schiavo family in clarifying situations that are ethical and legal.

Medical Dilemma Leading to Ethical Issues

Medical ethics, in the modern sense, attributes to the application of general and fundamental ethical principles to clinical practices situation, including medical research. Recently the terms have been modified to biomedical ethics, including all ethical principles relating to all branches of knowledge about life and health. Ethical dilemmas arise when there is two or more alternative of action, each of which is inherently good, yielding conflicting outcomes (Burnett & Wolff, 2014). One response, when taken by medical staff, might benefit one person and may also cause harm to another. In such a situation, healthcare has a role in finding the ethical justification for each course of action and has a system of prioritization to select the most appropriate one. For healthcare to be ethically right, they should ask themselves what should be done and not what one ordinarily does or what one could do.

The case of Schiavo provided valuable arguments on the ethical issue in the hospital and the role of health care. The conflicts of misunderstandings surrounding the case give an essential lesson in medicine, law, and ethics (Lee, 2012). What is the ethical thing to do for patients like Terri Schiavo is what many religious thinker are divided and when the person in this disorder should be offered AN&H. Most health care believes that feeding tube and hydration procedure should not be given to the person in whom death is imminent and where even the therapy mechanisms would be futile. In a case where there is some hope of the treatment not been literally futile, then feeding and hydration represent the basic care that should not be withheld. The husband of Schiavo was on the opinion that providing feeding tube and hydration to her ailing wife, whom she believed would never recover from consciousness, is poor stewardship of resources that could be used to help other patients. The action to end the life of Terri Schiavo is one that is however a debate among many health care and legal minds since there was no clear evidence of what the patient could have wanted.

Ethical Issues in End-of-Life Decision Making

Cases of assisted death have been rising where the number is estimated to be about 3,000 (illustrated by the graph on the exhibit page) when the last assessment was done (Hall, 1990). Many of these cases have been associated with family members who give instruction where the Terri Schiavo case is one of those many. Anderson, in his health care article, argues that allowing physician-assisted suicide would be a grave mistake and is a corrupt practice in medicine facilities (Anderson, 2015). First, Anderson argues that the exercise would endanger the weak and vulnerable. Second, it did not value the human dignity of a person. Doctors cannot heal by assisting patients in killing themselves, and when they practice euthanasia act, they would be fundamentally corrupt the defining goal of their profession. Anderson concluded that we should facilitate quick recovery of patients unlike undermining their safety. Guided by this reason, the American medical association code of ethics rejects physically-assisted suicide (Chaet, 2016). It is difficult to conclude that the Terri Schiavo case was physically-assisted suicide practice since it is not quite clear whether she would have wanted the act to be performed on her.

Why Teri Schiavo Case is Valuable in Law and Ethics

Law and ethics are concepts that share a common ground, which is that they are part of one continuum that comprises the guideline for human behavior. Through the law, many cases involving the ending of life through a withdrawal of feeding tubes have been decided by the court wherein most instances the court has allowed the act to be performed (illustrated by the graph in exhibits page). Ethics lies in persuasion, while the law is an obligation that needs to be fulfilled. Ethics has to do with those actions that people wish to take but not those they must take. It is a moral decision in person to decide whether doing something is ethically right (Cline, Frolic & Sibbald, 2013). The battle over the life and death of Terri Schiavo is an important reference in the healthcare system and one of the precedence court rulings to be used in other legal questions (Hall, 1990). In ethics, the Schiavo advocate for a moral judgment about what is an appropriate decision one should take on maintaining or withdrawing life-sustaining treatment.

Ethics and Law in Media Health Care Practice

Media personalities are also to be blamed on how they cover those people suffering from conditions such as the one Terri Schiavo was in. One of the main challenges that are facing healthcare organization is the protection of the privacy of patient information. Many people can argue that publicizing the health condition of Terri Schiavo was ethically wrong, and it infringed on her privacy. Federal law and State laws limit healthcare providers' unfettered ability to interact with patients through social media, and should patient information be disclosed in health care, it would not only be unethical but legally wrong. It is essential for health care to observe public health ethics and observe legal issues such as patient privacy when delivering their services


The case study of Terri Schiavo is one that brings to attention the discussion of healthcare issues and the rights of the patient. The right to die term is a question that has been brought in people's minds and decisions need to be determined when it is necessary to exercise that right. The ethics of those advocating for their patient to be put to permanent life ending when they are suffering from disorder should be interrogated to ensure that it is not done to aid their benefits. When there is a dilemma on whether to end the life of the patient, there should be a strong presumption in favor of such life. Even those patient with diminished quality of life is entitled to live and receive support from loved one and the community.


Anderson, R. (2015). Physician-Assisted Suicide Corrupts the Practice of Medicine. Health care, 4391. Retrieved from

Brody, H. (2010). Professional medical organizations and commercial conflicts of interest: ethical issues. Annals of Family Medicine, 8(4), 354-358. DOI:10.1370/afm.

Burnett, C. & Wolff, B. (2014). Nursing and end-of-life issues: Choices, decisions & care for our patients and ourselves are we ready? New Mexico Nurse, 59(3), 8-9.

Chaet, D. (2016). The AMA code of medical ethics’ opinions on ethics committees and consultations. AMA Journal of Ethics, 18(5), 499-500. DOI: 10.1001/journalofethics.2016.18.05.coet1-1605.

Cline, C., Frolic, A., & Sibbald, R. (2013). Beyond trailblazing: A roadmap for new healthcare ethics leaders (and the people who hire them). HEC Forum, 25(3), 211-27.

Fletcher, B. (2005). The Terri Schiavo Case. Wheaton College. Retrieved from EBSCO multi-search database in the Touro library.

Hall, J. (1990). Understanding the fine line between law and ethics. Nursing, 20(10), 34-40. Retrieved from EBSCO multi-search database in the...

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